An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “delighted” to officially open the new Cockhill Bridge on Tuesday.
A large crowd gathered at the location to welcome the Taoiseach and celebrate the fruition of a decades-long campaign by the local community.
Taoiseach Varadkar noted how the campaign “goes back about 40 years” and added how the new bridge would not only be beneficial to the people of Cockhill, but would “significantly boost tourism on the Wild Atlantic Way” and drive further development in the years to come.
He outlined how the new bridge, over which 10,000 vehicles cross every day, has reduced journey times by 10 to 15 minutes.
The new €3.15 million bridge spans 28 meters with a seven meter wide carriageway and two walkways. It replaces the 200 year old bridge which is being retained to serve as a new pedestrian and cycle crossing of the river as well as an ideal fishing spot.
An Taoiseach said he was “really pleased to see the old bridge being retained as a cycling and walking amenity for the local community.
He reflected on how it had been a matter of concern for residents and public representatives for a number of years, and thanked them for their co-operation during the construction phase of the new infrastructure. He paid particular tribute to landowners who were part of the Compulsory Purchase Order process and in particular, to James Porter, who passed away before seeing the bridge at completion.
The new bridge, funded by the Department of Transport, was designed by Roughan & O’Donovan Consulting engineers. It was constructed in three phases. Phase one involved site clearance and formation of roads and this work was completed by Donegal County Council Roads team in Inishowen Municipal District. This accelerated the delivery of the project by allowing the project to proceed while a bridge contractor was being procured. The second phase involved the construction of the bridge structure by Wills Bros Ltd supervised by Roughan & O’Donovan Consulting engineers and Donegal County Council. Phase three involved the completion of the approach roads to the bridge and connection of the bridge to the road network and decommissioning of the old bridge. This work was undertaken by the Council’s Roads team in Inishowen Municipal District.
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Colr. Seamus O’Domhnaill acknowledged the benefits that the bridge is already bringing to the region. He added that it will help provide the transport infrastructure to meet Inishowen’s potential as a great place to live, work in and visit.”
Minister Joe McHugh described the official opening as a “very special day.” He mentioned the late Dr Denis McLaughlin who always stressed upon him the importance of Cockhill Bridge as well as Paddy Gordon from the Isle of Doagh who “always said it would open up the peninsula.” He added: “It is important infrastructure, not just for Inishowen, but for the whole county.”
Cathaoirleach of Inishowen, Councillor Martin Farren said the completion of the bridge was a “great achievement.” He paid tribute to Donegal County Council’s roads team, Director of Service John McLaughlin and all involved with the construction of the bridge, including local elected representatives, TDs, and the community over the years. He said the provision of footpaths and street lighting will allow local residents to walk safely along the roads.
He continued: “It’s a proud day for Buncrana, a proud day for South Inishowen and a proud day for the whole Inishowen Peninsula.”
He added how it was “appropriate” the Taoiseach opened the bridge as the money for it came from his Government.
Councillor Farren said the patience and co-operation of everyone involved helped ensure that the new bridge opened on schedule and “this is a massive credit to the landowners, community, local businesses and commuters who use this road daily and we thank you sincerely for this.”
Many campaigns and protests took place over the last number of decades to obtain a new bridge for Cockhill. One of the final campaigns was headed by the Cockhill Bridge Action Group and the local community in Cockhill and across Inishowen.