The A5 was looking like a road to nowhere, but the blueprint for the cross border dual-carriageway linking Dublin, Derry City and Donegal could yet end up being actual blacktop.
Officials from both sides of the border have met to look at ways of finding funding for the North-South dual carriageway, the Derry Journal reported.
There was anger north of the border when the Dublin government recently revealed that it was pulling back from an agreement to put up €470 million to significantly upgrade the portion of the A5 that’s in Northern Ireland.
The money would have been spent on a 50-mile section of the road from the border town of Aughnacloy in County Tyrone to Derry City.
But even as the Republic’s transport minister Leo Varadkar protested that the withdrawal of funding for the hugely symbolic project was more a delay than an outright cancellation, the Irish Times was reporting that leading North politicians, including the first and deputy first ministers, were up in arms over the funding roadblock.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the Dublin government of reneging on a major commitment, while First Minister Peter Robinson expressed his disappointment at the decision.
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Under the St. Andrew’s Agreement, the Dublin and Belfast governments were to share the £800 million cost of upgrading the 50 miles of road, a project which would additionally have improved road access to Letterkenny and North Donegal.
Minister Varadkar did say that he was “politically committed” to begin work on the project sometime before 2016 and was treating the decision as a deferral of work rather than a cancellation of the project.
“We remain politically committed to this project and expect work to commence during the lifetime of the 2012-2016 capital program. The exact timeframe and sections to be commenced/completed during the program will have to be worked out with the Northern Ireland Executive in the coming months,” said a spokesman for his department.
Well, it didn’t quite take months.
Government officials from Dublin and Belfast have now been instructed to draw up new plans for the road.
According to the Journal, the decision to consider a new “funding and implementation plan” was made by both administrations at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council last week in Armagh.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, First Minister Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, all reaffirmed their commitment to the A5, the paper reported.
But the project’s future direction will now depend on the fresh round of discussions between officials, the report stated.
“Against the backdrop of the financial difficulties that exist, it’s a matter of how we can take the process forward. It is far, far too soon to write this project off,” said McGuinness.
Said Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “We recognize this as being a flagship project for the Northwest and we want to see that it happens, and given the constraints that are on us financially, we have made that visible, formal decision to allocate in 2015 and 2016.”