Government pledges €600m to A5, 20 years after it pledged €600m to A5

RTÉ's latest controversy rumbles on as politicians clamour for transparency over confidentiality

History has a knack of repeating itself. Back in 2006, the then Fianna Fáil government announced that its national development plan to be published the following year would include a financial commitment of £400 million (worth about €600 million now) to upgrade the A5 to a dual carriageway that would run from the Border town of Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone to Derry, a distance of 93km.

It was much needed. The huge improvement in the South’s road network was not matched in the North. The road through Northern Ireland, which was used by people travelling to north Donegal from the South, disimproved dramatically when one reached the Border near Emyvale, Co Monaghan.

However, in 2011, because of sweeping cuts being made in budgets in the South, the offer was withdrawn. Ironically, even if the money was approved it would still be sitting in an escrow account next door to the Apple billions. The A5 scheme has been beset by planning delays and opposition in the succeeding 18 years. Even now, a final decision on the road network has not been made. There are a number of groups opposing the route of the road. A counter group was set up several years ago to campaign for quick completion. Its message was simple: 44 people have died on this notorious stretch of roadway since the plans for an upgrade were announced in 2007.

Our main story today, written by Seanín Graham, reports that the A5, one of the most dangerous roads in Ireland, will get the lion’s share of the almost €1 billion Shared Island package announced by the Government yesterday for cross-Border initiatives.


The other big tranche of funding will go to the derelict GAA grounds in Belfast, Casement Park stadium. A sum of €50 million will go towards redeveloping the grounds with a capacity of 34,000 in time for the Euro 2028 soccer tournament. It could also provide a stadium headquarters of the Ulster GAA. The announcement was welcomed by the GAA and by other sporting bodies and by nationalist politicians. However, the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was less effusive. He said it was not the job of the Irish Government to provide financial support to UK projects and also indicated that the project will not be a political priority for his party. “I cannot see how significant additional UK taxpayer resources will be available at a time when other vital public services are in need of additional resource and capital allocations.”

Mark Hennessy provides analysis on the funding announcement here.

“For now, the Government will hope that Stormont Ministers sign off quickly on the A5 if the road gets planning approval, and get Narrow Water under way. Nothing convinces like the sight of diggers and shovels,” he concludes in the piece.

Another repeat of the RTÉ saga on the Dáil’s TV schedule

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst met Minister for Media Catherine Martin on Monday for two hours, as he and other senior RTÉ figures tried to get on top of the latest controversy to beset the broadcaster. This one involves big payments made to senior executives leaving RTÉ.

The problem for Bakhurst is that they left under his watch. His argument was that he needed to refresh his management team. He could not fire people willy-nilly. The only way that refresh could be done was through negotiated settlements. And those settlements, by their nature, contain confidentiality clauses which tied his hands.

He was faced with two opposing forces. The first was not to breach the confidential nature of the payments. The second was to address the call from politicians for transparency over those payments, which were made with taxpayers’ money. As reports circulated of payments of several hundred thousand euro, he found himself under pressure.

The fact that payments were made was generally unknown to the public and that undermined the new DG’s reputation as the new brush. Bakhurst railed against the claim that the payments were secret. He cited a doorstep interview he gave last year in which he stated one of the executives in question, Rory Coveney, would receive a payment.

But when the recording of that interview was played back, he said something less than that. When asked, he stated: “No, [Rory Coveney] didn’t get a payment going out the door. But he is entitled, as other people are, to, you know, statutory-level kind of payments when they leave an organisation.”

As Pat Leahy points out in an excellent analysis piece, the general impression people had was there were no big payouts and those comments would not have taken away from that impression.

“The best that can be said for the Bakhurst project is that it is a work in progress. And from the point of view of many people in Government, that progress is slow, too slow,” Pat concludes.

The controversy rumbles on. Yesterday a chorus of TDS argued that transparency trumps confidentiality, especially when it comes to the public purse.

Best Reads

As always Miriam Lord finds the perfect pitch when finding the words to remember our dear departed colleague Michael O’Regan.

In her column she writes: “A downhearted Danny Healy-Rae, struggling to find the right words to properly convey his respect and admiration for a hard-working journalist from his own beloved county, finally found the perfect line. ‘He was one of the best Kerrymen that ever came out of Kerry.’

“There is no higher praise.

“It’s such a pity Michael O’Regan wasn’t there to hear it. He would have died and gone to heaven.

“Yesterday, we came to Leinster House with a heavy heart.”

Elsewhere, Paul Cullen wrote about how the heartbreak of families and children with scoliosis has not ended amid continuing surgery delays.


Today Tánaiste Micheál Martin will meet civil society partners from academia and grassroots community organisations in Belfast.

Tomorrow, Thursday, Attorney General Rossa Fanning will address the International Court of Justice in The Hague regarding the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Representatives of the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, will appear before the Oireachtas media committee to discuss misinformation/disinformation and online safety.

It’s the first time that X has agreed to come to an Oireachtas committee since Elon Musk took over the company. However there is a twist. At X’s request, the meeting will be in private session.

Senator Malcolm Byrne, who has been one of the politicians at the forefront of this issue, said last night: “While we would prefer to have such sessions in public, it is important that we have this engagement so we agreed to X’s request. A similar recent private meeting with Meta proved to be a useful interaction.”

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath will brief media this morning on the Annual Report on Public Debt in Ireland 2023.

Dáil Éireann

09:10: Topical Issues

09:58: Private Members’ Business (Rural Independent Group): Motion re Healthcare Provision in Rural Communities

12:00: Leaders’ Questions

12:34: Questions on Policy or Legislation

13:05: Taoiseach’s Questions

14:50: Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2024 – Second Stage

17:33: Human Tissue (Transplantation, Postmortem, Anatomical Examination and Public Display) Bill, 2022

19:33: Court Proceedings (Delays) Bill, 2023 – Report and Final Stages

20:33: Deferred Divisions

Commissions of Investigation (Amendment) Bill, 2023 – Second Stage

– Motion re: Paediatric Orthopaedic and Urology Services (Amendment)

21:03: Dáil adjourns


10.30: Commencement Matters

11.30: Order of Business

12.45: Social Welfare and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions), 2023 – Committee and Remaining Stages

14.30: Local Government (Mayor of Limerick) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, 2023 – Report and Final Stages

19.00: Private Members’ Business: Motion on the situation in Palestine

21.00: Seanad adjourns


09.30: Committee on Enterprise. Engagement with Feargal O’Rourke, chairperson designate, IDA Ireland

09.30: Select Committee on Health. Committee Stage consideration of the Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill, 2022 with Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Health

09.30: Social Protection is looking at energy poverty with representatives from Irish Rural Link, and from Energy Cloud.

10.30: Select Committee on Housing is at Committee Stage of the mammoth Planning and Development Bill, 2023. Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, will attend.

13.30: European Union Affairs will see a discussion on upcoming European elections, voting rights and combating disinformation with Art O’Leary, CEO, An Coimisiún Toghcháin, Tim Carey, Head of Electoral Operations at the commission and Brian Dawson, the commission’s Head of Communications and Public Engagement

17.30: Agriculture resumes its examination of compliances with the Nitrates Directive. There are representatives in attendance from An Taisce, Coastwatch and BirdWatch Ireland.

17.30: Disability Matters looks at safeguarding with representatives from Safeguarding Ireland.

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