The Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has this afternoon heard calls to keep the delivery of the A5 road project high on the political agenda on both sides of the border.
Representatives from local authorities on both sides of the border in the Northwest, who comprise the A5 Working Group, were before the Committee to call for a further push to deliver the A5 road upgrade.
The project includes 86 km of dual carriageway from Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone to Newbuildings outside Derry City.
Committee Chairman Joe McHugh says: “We thank local representatives for making the compelling case for delivery of the A5 road upgrade. There is no doubt that the longstanding dearth of modern transport infrastructure to the Northwest is seriously hindering development, and the relatively high unemployment and poverty rates can be directly attributable to this lack of connectivity.
“Committee Members also pointed to how delivery of the project underpins so many other areas of North/South cooperation, such as in areas of education and health. With the successful launch of the Wild Atlantic Way tourist route this year, the tourism potential of the road upgrade was also highlighted.”
He added that the Committee fully takes on board the local representatives’ call for the issue to be kept to the top of the political agenda.
“A number of Members pointed to the imperative for tight timelines to avoid any further slippages on the delivery of this critical piece of infrastructure. The Irish Government have committed £50 million to the project and the Committee agreed to ensure the concerns raised this afternoon will be outlined to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar TD. On 10 July, the Committee will visit the Secretariat of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh and we intend to raise delivery of the project in our discussions with officials at those meetings.”
Separately, the Committee met with representatives from the Centre for Cross Border Studies to consider developments in North/South cooperation.
The Centre is an independent university-based research and development centre which commissions, encourages and publishes research on cross-Border co-operation in all fields of society and the economy.
Deputy McHugh continues: “The Committee heard a comprehensive report on the current levels of cross border cooperation from Centre for Cross Border Studies and where the potential exists to further strengthen cooperation.
“A number of positive developments in the area were instanced in the area of education, such with the numbers of Donegal students attending the Northwest College in Derry. However, Committee Members are acutely aware that overall numbers of students from Northern Ireland studying south of the border remain very low and that more needed to be done to incentivise cross-border study.”