Shared Island initiative: Casement Park and A5 upgrade among projects in line for €1bn State funding

Commitments include hourly Dublin-Belfast train service and represents ‘investing in people, in quality of life, in opportunity’

The Government has said it will commit €1 billion in funding to projects in Northern Ireland as part of the Shared Island initiative including €50 million towards the redevelopment of Casement Park in Belfast as well as recommitting €600 million to the long-delayed A5 road linking Monaghan to Derry.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan announced the funding commitments following the measures being approved by Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar said that it was the largest ever investment for cross-Border initiatives and also said that it would benefit the north of Ireland, people on both sides of the Border, as well as the all-island economy.

At a joint press conference in Government Buildings, he said the funding would benefit both jurisdictions and all communities.


“It is about understanding that, whatever the constitutional future of Ireland brings, investing in people, in quality of life, in opportunity, and for the generations to come, are all of our responsibilities and a common good we can best progress by working together.”

The funding includes provisions for:
  • €600 million committed for A5 Northwest transport corridor
  • Construction of Narrow Water Bridge linking Mourne Mountains with Cooley Peninsula.
  • New hourly rail service between Dublin and Belfast
  • Contribution of €50 million to Casement Park stadium in Belfast
  • €10 million investment in renewed visitor experience at Battle of the Boyne site
  • New cross-Border co-operation schemes on women’s entrepreneurship

The €50 million investment for Casement Park is a contribution to develop the stadium in time for the EUFA Euro 2028 soccer tournament, which is being jointly hosted by Ireland and the UK.

The stadium, which as the principal GAA stadium in Belfast, has lain derelict for over a decade. The projected estimate of redevelopment has been put at as much as €200 million.

Mr Varadkar said the stadium would be made available for soccer but said he also hoped that the GAA would make it available for a wide range of sporting and cultural events once it has been reestablished.

The €600 million earmarked for A5 is a recommittal of the sum committed by a previous Dublin government almost two decades ago. The commitment was reduced to €80 million in 2011 during the economic downturn.

“We are in a good place financially and able to increase and restore our commitment to the A5,” said Mr Varadkar. “The Irish economy is very strong and that (might not be) the case in the UK,” he said.

“It might look different in five years time and ten years time. We need to think about the real long term investments that we need to make,” he said.

Mr Ryan said it was not possible to estimate the overall cost of the A5 project as there were still some planning issues to be finalised on the road network (which has, over the years, seen countless delays over planning disputes and funding issues). However, he confirmed that the Government’s commitment to the funding was total.

He said that work would also be done on improving the N2 road in Co Monaghan and strategic road corridors in Donegal, some of which will link to the A5.

The overall plan also provides for the introduction of an hourly rail service on the Dublin-Belfast line during peak hours. That change will double the current frequency. Mr Ryan said it would improve sustainable transport connectivity between the two largest cities on the island and be a catalyst for economic and social connections.

Mr Martin said the Narrow Water Bridge project, which links the Cooley Peninsula to Co Down, was already in train and constituted a massive investment by the Irish Government.

“It is unlocking an entirely new tourism project and is also a strong connectivity project,” he said.

Mr Martin said the concept underlying the project was partnership between both jurisdictions and about the benefits brought by a shared island.

“We agreed from the time of the Good Friday Agreement that we would share the tourism project. It’s about getting them on the island and then travelling to [both sides of the Border],” he said.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times