Local politicians react to Narrow Water Bridge funding withdrawal
Local politicians are united in anger and disappointment tonight after Newry Times exclusively revealed this afternoon that the European Union had withdrawn its £15m funding.
Speaking to Newry Times after the news filtered through, local SDLP Councillor Connaire McGreevy described the news as ‘a symbol of the lost opportunity and stale politics of the Stormont Executive’.
And Councillor Connaire McGreevy has called the withdrawal of the EU funding package as a “disgraceful wasted opportunity” and has hit out at Louth County Council and the Stormont Executive.
“Today is a sad conclusion to what I referred to recently as a ‘slow no show’ by the officials of Louth County Council. Almost a month ago I was being told that letters were drafted by SEUPB to tell Louth County Council that the money was being withdrawn for the Narrow Water Bridge.
“Unfortunately, with last ditch efforts and more stalling of that decision it has taken to now for them to finally sign them and issue them. This was to allow a blame game to be constructed behind closed doors. This delay may well have jeopardised any other attempt at securing the money for other projects in our area.
“Someone should be held accountable for the failures in this procurement exercise and the application for funding. For example in the papers that I have seen recently, the 25 year life costs do not even account for inflation in wages for staff to man the lifting operation. It just pointed out to me the amateur way the whole project has been handled.
“I feel for the people of decades ago such as Dr O’Tierney and Jim McCart who tried to see the bridge built then. I feel for the bridge campaigners such as Liz Boyle who also tried and the latest batch of campaigners this time round. To all those that have campaigned for years to get this bridge this is a really sad day.
McGreevy added, “The Politics of Stormont has failed today. It’s a disgrace that the politics of consensus that the SDLP is founded upon could not prevail.”
Refusing to give up on the Narrow Water Bridge Project McGreevy’s SDLP colleague MLA Sean Rogers said, “On learning of the announcement to remove the formal letter of offer my office immediately made contact with SEUPB requesting they delay any such action.
“My office also contacted the County Managers Office requesting that they take similar action to provide an extension to the project.”
Alliance Down Councillor Patrick Clarke spoke of his sadness at the news. “Narrow Water Bridge has the potential to change the economic future of the Down area, opening up vast tourism opportunities and creating short term and long term jobs.
“Earlier this year, construction on the bridge came very close to starting and this latest blow will serve as more disappointment to the surrounding community. We need assurances that this project will be kept on the table. While the EU funding has fallen through, other potential investors might still come forward as the bridge still has great potential.”
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie insisted that serious questions needed to be asked about Narrow Water funding withdrawal in advance of a formal decision by the Irish Government and the NI Executive on providing additional funding.
“Confirmation that the SEUPB has pulled its funding for the Narrow Water Bridge, just days ahead of a planned meeting with the First & Deputy First Ministers, is not only very disappointing but surprising. The SEUPB is very much aware of the efforts being made to secure the required additional funding from both the NI Executive and the Irish Government.
“With meetings planned in the next few days with the First & Deputy First Ministers and in the very near future and an expected meeting with the Taoiseach, it would have been obvious to await the outcome of these meetings to ascertain if the funding gap was going to be met.
Sinn Fein MLA Caitríona Ruane said that while she is disappointed at the withdrawal of offer from the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) for the Narrow Water Bridge she believes that the project can still go ahead in the near future.
“I am obviously disappointed that SEUPB have withdrawn the offer at this stage, however the project can still go ahead in the near future if the political will exists.
“Along with Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams I attended the all-party convention called by Louth County Council this morning to discuss what needs to be done to ensure the project proceeds. The funding necessary to make the bridge a reality was already in place.
“All that was needed was a commitment for a €6 million funding package from the Taoiseach and the Deptartment of Transport. When Gerry Adams raised this issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this week, Enda Kenny said that he was in support of the project. I am disappointed that the Taoiseach’s actions did not match his words.
“All of the parties in County Louth and County Down support the construction of the bridge. Sinn Féin along with other parties have requested an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss getting this project back on track.
“At a time when the construction industry desperately needs investment this project can create 270 jobs for a relatively small investment by the government,” Ruane added.
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