SDLP MLA John Dallat has accused the transport minister of “making cheap political points” after her visit to Dungiven on Wednesday for an announcement on the A6 which he said should have been made in Stormont.
In a statement released to the media on Wednesday morning, Minister Michelle McIlveen said the £400 million A6 Derry to Dungiven dualling scheme is to proceed subject to future funding.
Speaking in Dungiven, at Owenbeg where she was accompanied by several DUP colleagues including Gregory Campbell and Gary Middleton, the minister said the 4.8km Dungiven bypass is a priority, and work is hoped to start by 2018/19.
However, she was unable to provide a completion date.
“There’s a commitment through ‘Fresh Start’ from the Executive that this scheme will proceed. Obviously, the further end of that scheme will be subject to further budget, but we are confident that we can proceed with the Dungiven bypass,” the minister told the ‘Journal’.
John Dallat, MLA for East Derry said the statement should have been made in Stormont.
“As a member of Stormont’s Regional Development committee, I am extremely disappointed the minister has taken upon herself to visit my constituency without telling me. I met with her several times yesterday (Tuesday), and I am disappointed she didn’t feel any obligation to give me the courtesy of telling me what she was doing. It certainly doesn’t augur well for an inclusive power sharing executive when you have individual mninisters running around making cheap political points. It is a complete breach of protocol,” said Mr Dallat.
Regarding the announcement from the minister, Mr Dallat said: “This statement should have been made in Stormont where there is an opportunity to ask serious questions about availability of money and timescale. It is all subject to so many things that I will believe it when I see the first barrow full of soil turned in Dungiven. The Inspector’s report has now been published and, of course, I welcome anything that ultimately leads to what should have been delivered decades ago, but what they’re doing here is mortgaging future budgets. It’s all a game of Monopoly.”
However, the minister remains confident the Dungiven bypass “will start in in 2018/19”.
“That’s the intention, and we are very hopeful of that. Obviously, it will be a great relief for people living in Dungiven and those commuting on a daily basis. This is a busy stretch of the road, upwards to 15,000 vehicles travel through Dungiven each day, so it will make a difference to the quality of their lives and the issues around air quality. “At this stage we are confident we can proceed on the Dungiven bypass.”
The public inquiries were held in September 2012 and the Inspectors reported their findings to the Department in March 2013. Following a thorough examination of the issues raised, the Department has concluded that the scheme should proceed with amendments to reflect the Inspectors’ recommendations.
The Minister said: “There is no doubt that this scheme represents a significant investment in our economy and will create hundreds of jobs. Businesses too will benefit from improved transport links while the public will enjoy a safer and better journey.
“The indicative allocations for the 2017/18 – 2020/21 period will fund construction of part of the A6 Londonderry to Dungiven dualling scheme. My Department is currently considering the extent of the scheme, including a bypass of Dungiven, that could be delivered. It is envisaged that priority will be given to construction from Dungiven towards Londonderry.”
The Department will now publish the formal Notice of its Intention to Proceed and the making of the Direction Order for the scheme, along with a Departmental Statement setting out its response to the recommendations in the Inspector’s report, which is now also being made available.