BAM, criticised for delays in national children’s hospital, building €100m cross-Border bridge

Taoiseach at ceremony marking breaking of ground on Narrow Water Bridge linking Omeath and Warrenpoint

The Narrow Water Bridge project will link the Republic to Northern Ireland. Image: PA

Building firm BAM Ireland, which was strongly criticised in the Dáil last week by Tánaiste Micheál Martin over its involvement in the national children’s hospital, is the main contractor on the new €100 million Narrow Water Bridge in Co Louth which was launched by senior Ministers on Tuesday.

Construction work has commenced on the 195-metre cable-stayed bridge which will connect Cornamucklagh near Omeath with Narrow Water near Warrenpoint, Co Down.

Taoiseach Simon Harris, who was present for the ceremony to mark the breaking of ground on the project, said the bridge would represent “a game-changer for commerce, daily life and tourism in this part of our shared island”.

The bridge is being built by BAM which is also the main contractor for the new national children’s hospital in Dublin. This project has been beset by delays and cost overruns with the first patients unlikely to be treated there until the autumn of next year at the earliest.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said the bridge will be a 'game-changer'. Photograph: GIS

Last Thursday in the Dáil Mr Martin claimed, under privilege, that BAM had “not resourced” sufficiently the national children’s hospital project for quite some time.

“I call on BAM to resource the site adequately and comprehensively to enable this hospital to be completed as fast as we possibly can,” he said.

Bam later rejected the claims made by Mr Martin, saying it is fully committed to the efficient completion of the hospital.

“We have always fully resourced this project beyond the level required for the original programmed works – largely to cope with the high level of design change and disruption – and will continue to do so until the building is completed,” it said.

Bam maintained the project was currently resourced “at 54 per cent above the anticipated levels for this stage”.

The Irish Times reported last Friday that an independent conciliator had recommended that it should receive an additional payment of €107 million due to delays that could be attributed to the client.

The Department of An Taoiseach said that construction of the new bridge followed a tender process conducted by Louth County Council, in accordance with the public spending code, and overseen by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

BAM Ireland executive director Alasdair Henderson said the company had a “proud legacy of delivering critical infrastructure across Ireland for over 60 years”.

“Using the most modern construction practices, this bridge will offer a safe, green route for cyclists and pedestrians, supporting our own vision of building a sustainable tomorrow.”

BAM has built other significant projects in recent years including the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy bridge in Co Kilkenny.

The Government said the Narrow Water Bridge was a long-standing commitment. It said an allocation of €102 million plus VAT was being made available from its “Shared Island” fund for the contract to deliver the project.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, Mr Harris said: “I think every single cent of it is a really, really positive investment.”

“I don’t think any one of us can fully capture the benefits that this is going to bring; the benefits in terms of connectedness, in terms of communities wanting to engage, but also the really practical benefit, and it is the hugely economic benefits that we’re going to see from this in terms of tourism.”

“There is so much untapped potential in this region of this island and this bridge is going to play a very important role.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent