Delight as Narrow Water Bridge gets €17.4m funding
Narrow Water Bridge is one step closer today after the European Union announced that it will give €17.4m in funding towards building the bridge.
‘Iconic’, ‘catalyst’, ‘symbol’ and ‘historic’ were just some of the words used by local political representatives to describe the news after a hard fought campaign spanning decades to get the bridge to this stage.
The bridge, which could be open by 2015, last week received a huge boost after planning permission was granted on both sides of the border. The €17.4m was granted by the Special EU Programmes Body at a meeting today.
Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane said that the decision today by the SEUPD to fund the Narrow Water Bridge will transform the fortunes of South Down.
Speaking to Newry Times, Ruane stated,
“I am delighted. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the campaign especially the various Chambers of Commerce and the Narrow Water action group. This bridge has been delivered by everyone working together on a cross party and cross border basis and highlights what can be achieved by working together.
She continued, “This bridge has the potential to open up the entire South Down and Louth area for tourism and business. I have long campaigned for this bridge as I see it as a catalyst for economic regeneration so I am excited at the prospects this announcement will now open up.
Ruane added, “It is now important that we look at building social clauses into the contracts so that local contractors, construction workers and suppliers can benefit from the construction of the bridge. I will be looking to meet with the relevant parties as soon as possible so we can get a starting date for the project and explore the benefits that flow from this announcement.”
SDLP South Down MLA Karen McKevitt said news signals the start of a new phase in tourism development.
“This is tremendous news. This bridge will allow the greater Carlingford Lough area encompassing Cooley, Slieve Gullion and the Mournes to be developed and marketed as a single integrated destination under a single brand.
“I believe the bridge will be our new tourism icon, the symbol of a new phase in practical cross-border co-operation to develop one of the few industries that we can control ourselves.
She added, “Credit is due to all those who collaborated on this project, but we should particularly remember the pioneers who began campaigning for a bridge over Narrow Water decades ago in the midst of a campaign of destruction.“
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie echoed McKevitt’s sentiments.
Speaking after this morning’s announcement, she said the news is a great boost for the local community. “For over 30 years the community has worked on the Narrow Water Bridge Project. Some of my earliest political memories as a former member of the East Border Region Committee involve the Narrow Water Bridge Campaign.”
“People like Jim McCart, Donal O’Tierney, Barney Carr, Eddie McGrady and many others never faltered from their belief in the bridge; who shaped the economic debate for the bridge and kept the project alive, during the very difficult political times and the economic challenges that we faced.”
Ritchie continued, “The Narrow Water Bridge will link the two communities of South Down and Co Louth and it is in every sense a community bridge. The requirement for this facility is deeply rooted in the local community. The community led and campaigned for the bridge. They have now achieved their goal.
“This bridge will be the first to link North and South. It will not only be a historic and iconic bridge, but in this time of economic recession it will be the catalyst that is required for South Down and Co. Louth. It will be an important economic driver for job creation and tourist development.
“The Narrow Water Bridge is a unique, iconic, sustainable and economically advantageous project. I commend the SEUPB for recognising this and for assisting the community in the delivery of this once in a lifetime economic opportunity for the South Down area.
She added, “I now look forward to the next phase of the bridge project which will involve issues such as procurement of the construction of the Bridge. Naturally I look forward to the completion of this bridge and its use by the local community and by visitors throughout the island and further afield.
“Undoubtedly this bridge will open up access to the Mournes and St Patrick’s Country for many visitors.”
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