OPPONENTS OF plans for a new road between Dublin and Derry have welcomed a decision by the Oireachtas transport committee to hold public hearings next month.
The proposed route would be Ireland’s longest new road, replacing much of the N2 in the Republic and the A5 in Northern Ireland. It would be part-financed by €500 million which the Government agreed to provide under the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.
The Oireachtas hearings were requested by Joe Costello TD, Labour’s transport spokesman, after he met a coalition of anti-motorway and pro-heritage groups from both sides of the Border in Leinster House this week.
Mr Costello told the delegation that Labour would draft a new national development plan if it entered government and every current infrastructure project would be reviewed, “no matter what stage of planning it is at”.
While refusing to be drawn on the N2-A5 given divided views on it in his own party, Mr Costello said the €500 million commitment would be the single biggest drawdown on transport spending in the coming years.
Public consultation is under way on three sections of the route – the Slane bypass, the Monaghan bypass and the A5 in the North – which are being opposed by Save Newgrange, Don’t Bypass the Bypass and the Alternative A5 Alliance respectively. “No cost-benefit analysis has been performed on the proposed road and traffic numbers do not justify building a new road rather than upgrading the existing one,” said Lynne Smyth of the Alternative A5 Alliance.
John Dunbar, the group’s chairman, said Sinn Féin and DUP Ministers, as well as those from the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP, along with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, “have been saying quite matter of factly that the A5 is a ‘done deal’ and that is that”.
He said Mr Costello’s comments that any new administration in the Republic “would need to look again at taking a half a billion out of the Southern economy at a time of a national economic emergency puts paid to that notion”.
Save Newgrange spokesman Vincent Salafia said leading archaeologists had made submissions to An Bord Pleanála against the Slane bypass route, arguing that it would be too close to Brú na Bóinne. He said the obvious solution to traffic problems in Slane would be to ban trucks, as agreed by Meath County Council in 2009, which would force them to use the M1.
Noel Murphy of the Don’t Bypass the Bypass campaign said Economic and Social Research Institute transport economist Dr Edgar Morgenroth had characterised the proposal to build a motorway east of the new Monaghan bypass as “total overkill”.