European funding for the Narrow Water Bridge project has been withdrawn putting the whole project in jeopardy.
The Special EU Programmes Body has withdrawn the €17.4 million support. This was confirmed last Friday by Louth County Council.
Earlier that day an all party cross border meeting took place at the council’s Millennium office.
It was called by the chairs of the three councils involved in the project and there was unanimous support for the project. All agreed to do what was within their power to see the bridge to completion.
The meeting agreed to seek urgent meetings with the Taoiseach.
On Monday, Louth County Council chairman Declan Breathnach, travelled to Stormont to meet representatives of the Northern Ireland executive to see what can be done to save the project.
“I have not given up hope,” Cllr Breathnach said. “This was not unexpected.
“Louth County Council, Newry and Mourne district, and South Down, have all committed to the fund.
“I think this should focus the minds on what is a shovel ready project and if people really want the bridge to happen, as three local authorities and the majority of public representatives do, then it will focus the minds in the Taoiseach’s office and the Northern Ireland executive.”
The EU body withdrew its offer because additional funding had not been found.
The 195m long Narrow Water cable-stayed bridge has been in the planning for at least five years. It would have connected Cornamucklagh near Omeath with Narrow Water near Warrenpoint.
The entire build would have been 620m long and it had been hoped it could be open by 2015.
Last May Stormont’s finance department committed to fund the scheme with £2.7m (€3.2m).
In July bids for the job from construction firms came in well above budget.
Louth County Council committed itself to a E2m contribution.
Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane believes that the project can still go ahead in the near future. She said what was needed was a commitment for a €6m funding package from the Taoiseach and Department of Transport.
Sinn Fein deputy Gerry Adams expressed his ‘deep disappointment’ at the decision by the Special EU Programmes Body to withdraw its offer of funding.
“While this decision is deeply disappointing it is not the end of the matter,” deputy Adams said.
“Today’s unsatisfactory decision by the SEUPB injects renewed urgency into this.
“During the week the Taoiseach expressed his support for the Narrow Water Bridge project and most of the money necessary to bring it to conclusion is in place.
“The onus is now on the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Transport to come up with the relatively small amount needed to make this project a reality.”