Taoiseach Enda Kenny says the Irish Government remains committed to the A5 road upgrade despite a major u-turn on funding the project.
Speaking in the Dail, Mr Kenny said the A5 was one of a number of major infrastructure projects that the government could simply not fund at present.
“The Government remains committed to these projects, even if they will now require a longer timeline,” Mr Kenny told TDs yesterday.
“We are now proposing early discussions with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland to explore a new implementation plan and timetable.”
The Irish government had agreed to fund the road to the tune of £400million as part of the St Andrews Agreement in 2006.
Mr Kenny said the A5 project would proceed when “the country is back on a firm financial footing.”
The 55mile dual carriageway, that will link Derry to Co Monaghan and onto Dublin is seen as a central tenet to the north west’s economic regeneration.
The Irish government has already contributed more than £20million to the £800million road while the Stormont Executive in the north has spent close to £40million.
The north’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness says he was “bitterly disappointed” that Dublin had reneged on their funding pledge.
“Successive Irish Governments have expressed their commitment to the project and at the last meeting of the NSMC the Irish government committed a further £11million to the A5 and A8 projects.
“This is a key route for the future economic growth of the North-West and I intend to raise the matter with the Irish government at the earliest opportunity.”
Derry’s MP Mark Durkan said the onus was now on the Stormont Executive to salvage the A5 project. He said the project should still be seen as priority despite the withdrawal of the Irish government’s funding.
“It is not true that just because Irish Exchequer money isn’t available that no money could or should be spent on the A5. The A5 is a necessary project and it needs to be a priority for the Executive.
“It should not be the case that the road is a priority only when there is £400million available form the Irish Government.
“What we have to do now is try to get a political commitment from the Irish government and to say ‘Well if you can’t promise the route on this scale now, tell us when you can give us particular sums so that we can begin work on stretches of this road’, not least Derry to Strabane.”
Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said the decision to postpone funding must not go unchallenged.
“It is ridiculous that Derry City is the only city of its size anywhere in Europe without a motorway within fifty miles of its perimeter. We will not accept this as a fait accompli by looking for populist projects to lobby for the Executives portion to be directed at.
“All public representatives in this region should now be speaking with one voice in demanding proper investment in our infrastructure instead of just passively accepting politically expedient decisions taken by Ministers far removed from the reality of the needs of the North West,” he said.