Sinn Féin Councillor and joint Chair of the cross-border Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Antóin Watters has welcomed an update and commitments from the North’s Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, on the Narrow Water Bridge project as ‘positive and enthusiastic’.
Cllr Watters said: “The Narrow Water Bridge project has been stopping and starting for years and was included in the New Decade, New Approach Deal which saw the institutions in the north restored at Stormont.
"It is now a year on from the signing of that Deal and although the project was way-laid by Brexit and then Covid, I am pleased that we have commitments from Minister Mallon that this is a priority on her work plan and I feel progress is being made.
“This is a vital piece of infrastructure that will benefit the North Louth/South Down areas and not only will it boost tourism but it will also boost the connectivity between Louth and Down.
"The community on both sides have been calling for this project since 1976 and it finally gained traction when planning permission was granted in 2012 but I am satisfied that the project is now being taken seriously and relevant stakeholders have been on site recently with officials now working on putting together a business case.
“Concerns had been raised in the past that the Narrow Water Bridge project was somehow competing with the Southern
Relief Road project and we were in an ‘either / or’ situation but the Minister assured us today that was not the case.
“We in Sinn Féin have been calling for Minister Mallon to work with her counterpart in the South and to make this Bridge a priority and I am happy to report that she committed to that. Minister Mallon has been in contact with Eamon Ryan and was planning to speak with him directly again after the MOU meeting.
“According to the Minister, she and Eamon Ryan will be meeting around March/April on developing a road map on how it will move forward.”
Current design options under consideration, according to Cllr Watters, include road design, in addition to pedestrian and cycling options, alongside low and high level and opening bridge designs to provide a comprehensive consideration of alternatives.
Cllr Watters said “Nichola Mallon will come back to the MOU in the summer with a progress report.
“I would be looking for that progress to be quite significant by then.
“We have waited long enough. The time for talking is over. It’s time to get the project moving. We need to keep the momentum going and it is important that Minister Mallon keep her focus on this and for her Department to continue to drive it forward. We now want to see continued progress.”
The MOU is writing to the Executive at Stormont and the Office of An Taoiseach after the meeting to stress the importance of the project to the area and to let them know that the community has been waiting a long time to see its completion.
Overall, Cllr Watters described the update as ‘positive and enthusiastic.’