‘We remain committed to the A5’

Taoiseach  Leo Varadkar at Queen's University, Belfast, on Friday.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Queen's University, Belfast, on Friday.

Leo Varadkar has said his government remains committed to providing £75m to advance to the A5 between Derry, Donegal and Dublin.

The Fine Gael leader made his comments during his first official visit to the north as Taoiseach.

Speaking on north-south relations at Queen’s University on Friday, Varadkar also spoke of the benefits that working together across the border has brought for health patients in the North West. He singled out Altnagevin Hospital’s services for cross-border patients for mention during his wide-ranging speech.

Mr Varadkar said: “North-South cooperation has also been important in normalising relationships on this island and in bringing real and practical benefits to all of our citizens. In my former role as Minister for Health, I have seen the benefits that working together can bring. Since May 2016 a cross-border cardiology service gives Donegal patients suffering from a STEMI heart attack direct access to services in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where previously, they had to be transported to University Hospital Galway.

“Similarly, cancer patients from the North West can now attend the new Radiotherapy Unit in Altnagevin which the Irish Government helped to fund. Children from Northern Ireland with congenital heart disease now have their emergency surgery in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin in Dublin and will attend the new National Children’s Hospital now under construction.”

He added: “We are working on our ambitious multi-annual 10-year capital plan to be finalised by the end of 2017. This will outline investment in roads, in public transport, in energy, in water, in schools, in higher education and in hospitals and health facilities. This capital plan will include detailed funded plans to complete the national road network, including links between Dublin and Derry-Londonderry and Donegal. We remain committed to contributing £75 million to the construction of the A5.”

The Taoiseach also paid tribute to the late Queen’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, “who died so tragically in June”. “A Derryman, educated at UCD, he was one of the leading researchers in the fight against cancer, and had embarked on an ambitious programme for this university. Stories of his eloquent speeches at graduation ceremonies and his good humour travelled far. I offer my deepest sympathies to Iseult and their four sons and to all who knew him and worked with him,” he said.