With the decision to proceed with the construction of the A5 dual carriageway, the Irish Government has offered one of the clearest signals to date that the project will feature in a major new ten year spending plan set to be unveiled in the coming months.
Newly appointed Tánaiste Simon Coveney made the comments during a meeting of the Good Friday Agreement Committee in Dublin last week.
Mr Coveney had been urged by West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff to work with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other ministers to ensure that the Irish Government restates its original pledge of €400m for the major project.
The Irish Government’s current commitment stands at £75m, with the NI Executive committing £229m for the 2016-21 period. The initial phase between Strabane and New Buildings in Derry will be the first built at a cost of £150m. Further funding will be needed to complete the sections between Omagh and Ballygawley and Strabane to Omagh.
Simon Coveney last week confirmed that senior officials in Dublin continue to maintain a close eye on the A5.
“The project’s spend profile, including the £75m Irish Government commitment, will of course be reviewed in the context of that planning process as it progresses,” said the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
He revealed that the Irish Government’s ten year capital plan, which was originally due to be published before Christmas, would now be unveiled “in the next few months”.
Mr Coveney confirmed that it commits approximately €100 billion over the next ten years.
Earlier this year, it emerged that the A5 had been among the major capital projects which had been costed by Leo Varadkar in the run up to his bid to be leader of Fine Gael. It had been reported that €465m had been costed for the A5 with another €200m for the links on the other side of the border.
Referring to the “strategic importance” of the A5, Mr Coveney said, “I am certainly not in a position to be able to announce today what the Irish Government will do.
“But I’d be confident that we will take a very positive view of the A5 in the context of that capital plan.
“That’s a matter for [Finance] Minister Paschal Donohoe to clarify in the coming months.
“But I do recognise the strategic importance of it in terms of linking the north-west of the country, in particular Donegal, but also the connectivity along the line and the populations that live along it and the economic corridor it opens up.”
Reacting to the comments and Tuesday’s announcement of the decision to proceed with the A5 dual carriageway, Barry McElduff said, “The completion of the A5 scheme is vital in aiding economic development in the north west.
“The improved infrastructure network will help bring jobs to the people of Tyrone, Derry and Donegal as well as connecting the region with Dublin and Belfast.”
The Ballygawley to Aughnacloy section of the new dual carriageway currently remains on hold, while the Department for Infrastructure awaits on clarification from the Irish Government on its plans for the N2 across the border in Monaghan.
The chairman of the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A) has said he has no interest in meeting with West Tyrone...