Government officials from both sides of the border will hold talks in January on the future of the A5 road project, the Northern Assembly has been told today.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said he was looking at the viability of other road projects if the scheme stalled, after the Irish Government announced it could not provide the £400m (€467.2m) pledged to the cross-border road scheme.
It is planned the dual carriageway will form a modern road link running from Donegal to Dublin, benefiting other areas of the north-west including Derry and Tyrone.
The North-South Ministerial Council announced plans last month for talks on how to move the project forward following the decision by the Dublin Government to offer reduced funding while it grapples with the economic crisis facing the Republic.
Mr Kennedy confirmed talks will be held in January.
But he said the Stormont Executive would have the final say over the potential use of Assembly funding currently earmarked for the A5, as well as the A8 route which runs to the Larne port.
“The funding scenario has changed clearly with the announcement by the Irish Government,” said Mr Kennedy.
“I remind the House that because the A5/A8 scheme was an Executive priority, it is technically feasible, and legally the case, that if that project doesn’t proceed, then the money goes back into the centre.
“It is my job as roads minister in charge of regional development to identify schemes that we can spend money [on] effectively, efficiently, to improve the road network all over Northern Ireland, including the A5 and the A8, and to see how we can do that, because I don’t want to be in a situation where the Executive has to hand back money to the Treasury with the excuse that it can’t spend it.”
He added: “I can spend shed loads of money on road improvements all over Northern Ireland.”