Martin McGuinness says Derry is hugely supportive of the A6 project, which he considers vital if high unemployment and economic underdevelopment in the North West are to be effectively tackled.
He said work is already underway on the Moneynick stretch despite a legal challenge by environmentalists centred on a neighbouring section in what’s been labelled by road opponents as ‘Seamus Heaney Country’.
During a recent briefing of The Executive Office Committee at Stormont, Mr McGuinness acknowledged that the challenge, which is based on an alleged breach of the EU Habitats Directive, will be heard in the New Year.
He said he hoped for an early outcome and noted that the judge had “indicated that he intends to expedite this, recognising the importance of these significant infrastructural project”.
Notwithstanding the legal challenge and concerns about the upgrade traversing ‘Heaney Country’ and habitats for wintering Whooper Swans, Mr McGuinness said Derry was firmly behind the scheme.
“As I travel on that road every day, I think that it is also important to state that there is huge support in Derry and in County Derry for the road.
“All of that has to be taken into account, given that we believe that it is vital that there is a first-class transport route between the city of Belfast and the city of Derry,” he said.
The Minister said the road would be a boon to the whole North West.
“That does not just benefit people in the North but is of huge importance for people in Donegal, given that many of them have financial commitments in the North.
“The amount of cross-border trade that takes place is hugely important for all of us,” he added.