The Government announced this week its commitment to resurrect the Narrow Water Bridge project between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The idea of a bridge over Carlingford Lough has been debated for nearly 50 years.
The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said the project “was first proposed decades ago, and has been a long standing and highly symbolic Government commitment.” He was determined “that the repeated commitment to build the Narrow Water Bridge will now be delivered upon”.
The proposed bridge has featured in various agreements, including the most recent Stormont document “New Decade New Approach” of Jan 2020. In it, the Narrow Water Bridge Project has been included under the Turbocharging Infrastructure and Connectivity and Infrastructure sections. In October 2020, it was included with the Taoiseach’s announcement of the Shared Island Fund.
The Shared Island Fund is a Republic of Ireland (ROI) Government initiative. There is €500m to be made available through to 2025. The fund provides capital funding for investment on a strategic basis in collaborative Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland projects that will support agreed cross-border cooperation.
Key objectives for the Shared Island Unit are:
- delivery of the commitments on Shared Island in the Programme for Government
- strengthening social, economic and political links on the island
- the promotion of all-island approaches to the strategic challenges facing Ireland, North and South
The Taoiseach has said that the initial funding of €3 million will come from the Shared Island Fund to bring the project to tender stage. Louth County Council will be the lead project promoter, and will be working closely with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The bridge will bring major socio-economic benefits to the entire Carlingford Lough cross border region. It will provide tourism access to some of the most attractive areas of the country. The area includes the Mountains of Mourne, the Cooley Mountains and the Ring of Gullion. These are destinations that can be further developed for tourism.
The immediate hinterland to Carlingford Lough, consists of parts of counties of Armagh, Louth and Down and has been classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Economic benefits for the region
The bridge will also improve the economic offering in the area, because it will strengthen cross-border connections and integrate the communities on either side of the Lough.
Narrow Water lies at the head of Carlingford Lough, which is a glacial fjord or sea inlet. It has formed the border between the two jurisdictions in Ireland since 1922. On its northern shore lies County Down with County Louth to the south. Warrenpoint on the northern side is the largest town and a port, with Rostrevor a smaller community. On the south shore are the villages of Omeath, Carlingford and Greenore, also a port.