Narrow Water bridge cost row may not be sorted on time to keep EU funding, says Kenny
‘If the Taoiseach decided to make this happen, it would happen’ - Adams
Gerry Adams: Building bridge would be relatively small investment with significant potential. Photograph: Alan Betson
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed doubt that concerns about the cost of building a bridge between counties Down and Louth can be resolved before the deadline to retain EU funding.
Construction of the Narrow Water bridge between Warrenpoint and Carlingford was put on hold in June after the tender prices for the bridge came in some €15 million over the original estimated cost of €18.3 million.
Mr Kenny said everybody supported the bridge, which he described as the “first manifestation of physical contact between North and South for very many years in this area”.
However he said “my immediate concern is that the European money were allocated for a specific time”. Nobody wanted to see that money to be lost to the region. “We are willing to support it but we need to have clarity regarding how it is shared” on a cost basis, Mr Kenny said.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had appealed to the Taoiseach to resolve the issue and release €6 million in funding from either his department, the Department of Transport or the Department of the Environment.
“If the Taoiseach decided to make this happen, it would happen,” Mr Adams said.
He pointed out that it was “very unique to get so much co-operation” from all the sectors involved – the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government.
He said building the bridge would be a relatively small investment with significant potential, delivering 270 jobs in the short term and in the long term it would be a massive economic stimulus from the Cooley Peninsula and Slieve Gullion across Carlingford to the Mourne mountains.
Support from the Special EU Programmes Body was evidence of its importance. He said the contractor was only obliged to hold the contract price until December 16th but had agreed to extend it until January 18th.
“Can the Taoiseach help to end the uncertainty over this vital infrastructural project and agree to release the funding which will bring it to completion?”
Mr Kenny told him: “To be honest I’m not quite sure if it can be dealt with in the timescale mentioned here.”
He said Louth County Council would hold a meeting on the issue tomorrow to discuss continued support for the project. He doubted, however, that it would have the analysis of why the tenders exceeded the estimate by so much, and this would have to be done.