HAMILL’S BEAT - Why Derry needs the Dublin road

The A% dual carriageway plans
The A% dual carriageway plans

Last week Eamonn McCann rehearsed the economic and environmental arguments against the A5 dual-carriageway.

His points were perfectly rational but not everything should be subjected to the dismal science of economics and the even more dismal mumbo jumbo of environmentalists. Then there’s also the problem of the dismal unionists.

Man cannot live by bread (or economics) alone. If the political project of the new A5 from Derry to the border at Aughnacloy doesn’t go ahead this city and region will be condemned to remain the only part of Ireland not served by modern roads. A few Mickey Mouse improvements to the existing road, here and there, just won’t do.

Driving on congested single carriageways is nothing short of torture. It should be banned under a human rights act. Not only that but it’s hugely inefficient in fuel use and far more dangerous than driving on dual carriageways.

Yes the proposed new A5 was a grand project that emerged from political agreement. It was to be a flagship model of cross-border co-operation. What’s wrong with that? In the context of this miserable little, failed, sectarian statelet, such ambitious projects are exactly what we need and need desperately.

Of course, simply building bigger roads isn’t the ultimate answer to the congestion problem. In time the volume of vehicles will expand to fill the space available. The longer term answer is to combine road investment with investment in efficient railways. Yes we should also restore the Derry-Dublin rail link. It was short-sightedly removed from us by unionists in 1965 and now their successors don’t want us to have a new Dublin road either. No change there, then.

In just one respect I strongly agree with environmental campaigner Victor Christie. He rightly says ending the new road at Newbuildings doesn’t make sense. It should cross the relatively narrow River Finn below Lifford and continue on to and around Derry on the western (Donegal) side of the Foyle.