There is uncertainty over the future funding of the Fintra Bridge following an exchange between Pat “the Cope” Gallagher and Transport Minister Shane Ross in the Dáil on Wednesday.
In a reply to Gallagher’s question, the Minister failed to give any commitment to Gallagher on the capital costs of constructing the new road and bridge at Fintra.
Deputy Gallagher said the ministers failure to commit funding was ‘extremely concerning in regard to this project’.
He said: “The only commitment given by the Minister is to explore route options which are ongoing at present, but this is ultimately going to lead to the further long fingering of this project.
“Fintra Bridge was a priority project in 2014, today it is a project without any status and what is worse it’s a project without any funding source as confirmed by the Minister to me on the record of the Dáil,” Gallagher added.
“Minister Ross is playing fast and loose with the people of south-west Donegal.
“He knows we are in the twilight zone of the lifetime of this government and he is playing for time in order to get to the next election, thereafter no commitments will remain –especially if they are never given in the first case.
“The communities living west of Fintra Bridge, the parishes of Kilcar and Glencolmcille in addition to Fintra itself, deserve a new bridge and better road connection, but they also deserve to be provided with a plan that is clearly backed up with the necessary funding.
“I am calling on funding to be ring-fenced and put in a multi-annual plan so that no further doubt can arise in regard to Fintra Bridge,” he said.
“None of these proposals made by me have been taken on board by the minister thus far, despite me raising this issue on numerous occasions since 2016 with him and the Department.
“If Fintra Bridge is to proceed then the Minister must confirm a special allocation for this project,” he added.
“This entire project must be underwritten by the Department due to the fact the bridge is located on a regional road and as such there is no way the local authority can bear any of the costs.”
Cllr Niamh Kennedy welcomed concern over the bridge and added: “I’m glad to see the people of south Donegal now see the hard work and dedication it has taken to get the bridge to the stage it is now at.
“My frustration lies with previous candidates and new candidates using this positive story to highlight negativity which is not there.
“Yes the bridge is in talks for a number of years; this is a major job and will take time and due process but it has
now got to final plans stage with landowners being contacted.
“We cannot let certain individuals use this bridge as a political football to highlight their own agenda when trying to get elected.
“I have spent years working on this project like many others and I welcome anyone to look through the names of each person in attendance at any meetings, petitions, letters of support or knocking door to door and this will clarify who is jumping on the bandwagon for political reasons and who has a genuine interest in the actual furthering of this project to develop our community.”