The £1.75m question
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
NEWRY and Mourne Council will decide this week whether or not to make a one off contribution of €1.75m towards the Narrow Water Bridge project.
The troubled project ran into its latest stumbling block last month when, after finally receiving approval from both the northern Department of Finance and Department of Regional Development, it was revealed that previous estimates for how much the bridge would cost were short by some €15m.
With an EU deadline for when funding for the bridge had to be finalised looming it looked as though the long suffering project was about to finally collapse.
However, an extension to the EU deadline and moves from both Newry and Mourne and Louth councils to cover the shortfall have given the project breathing space.
On Monday, September 2 the council approved a report of an earlier Special Committee meeting in which councillors recommended the council "make a financial contribution to the development of the proposed Narrow Water Bridge, after exhausting all avenues of external funding and undertaking an examination of the potential risks to the council."
This week the council's Finance Committee will meet to make a final decision on whether or not to grant the funding for the project.
Approval will be another step towards finally seeing the project get under way while a rejection of the Special Committee's recommendation will see it further mired in uncertainty.
Joint chair of the Louth/ Newry and Mourne Joint Committee, councillor Jimmy McCreesh, said there was still huge support behind the bridge.
“Both Newry and Mourne and Louth council are still very keen, and working tirelessly, to see this project go ahead," he said.
“The fact that the EU was willing to extend the deadline on this project to the end of September, something they do not do lightly, shows how worthwhile they feel the project is.
“The Joint Committee will be meeting this week to discuss both Louth and Newry and Mourne's contributions to the project.
“For our part, we will exhaust all possible avenues of funding for the project to ensure that as little pressure as possible is put on the rate payers."
He said that the committee would also be discussing how estimates for the bridge were so inaccurate but added that for now, this would not be the focus.
“There are serious questions about how this was gotten so badly wrong that need answered and those questions will be answered," he said.
“But for now we had two choices, either focus on assigning blame or move forward with the project and ensure we get it up and running and we've decided to focus on making the project a reality for now."
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