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11 May 2006 Edition

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Mitchel Mclaughlin - Investment needed to stop Northwest decline

Sinn Féin launched its Campaign for the Infrastructural development of the Northwest and Border Counties in Omagh last Monday. This will intensify over coming months through lobbying of Government Departments in Dublin and Belfast as well as seeking the support of business, community and other interested bodies. We will be seeking to impress on decision makers the reality that without this essential investment the tegion will continue to lag further behind all other Regions of Ireland.

Derry for instance, is the main centre of population in the Northwest, and the fourth largest city in Ireland. Yet, to travel the A6 to Toome en-route to Belfast or the A5/N2 to Dublin is like a third world experience compared with the rest of the country.

The Northwest and border counties have the most underdeveloped road and rail transport infrastructure of any region of Ireland. It is estimated that transport costs for business and industry operating out of Derry are up to 30% higher than other urban centres.

While geographical position is a contributing factor, the lack of infrastructure is no accident. Apart from the political injustice of partition, its imposition tore natural hinterlands asunder and subjected the people of the Northwest to decades of social and economic neglect. Partition resulted in the pursuance of mutually exclusive transport infrastructure planning and development by administrations in Dublin and Belfast, distorting natural transport corridors.

The dismantling of the railway system throughout the Northwest was a political decision. While promises were given that the road systems would be adequately developed to compensate for the loss of the railways this never materialised. While billions are being spent by both Dublin and Belfast on infrastructural development in the Eastern Corridor, Donegal, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Cavan continue to be the only counties in Ireland with no public rail system and Derry limps along with a single line to Belfast.

The decimation of the railways in the North was a political decision by the unionist regime at Stormont to starve nationalist West of the Bann of economic development.

The Taoiseach and Peter Hain recently intimated that we are in a new era of co-operation and that the infrastructural deficit in the Northwest is now being addressed. If the A6 is an example- where we have been promised a dual carriageway linking Derry to Dungiven and maybe eventually to Belfast, in the next 25years- then I think we can be forgiven for being cynical.

Improvements to the A5 to Dublin are piecemeal, consisting mainly of road widening and town by-pass schemes covering only part of the route. If anything they are just now bringing these roads up to a standard, promised 40 years ago. Road traffic has multiplied 40-fold in the intervening period.

The main thrust of Sinn Féin's campaign will be a demand for a 21st century road network and the reinstatement of a rail network linking the region to the nation's capital. We will not wait another 40 years.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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