The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has signed a “death warrant” for Newry Shipping Canal this week with plans to introduce a fixed bridge as part of the Southern Relief Road scheme.
A non-opening 50-metre fixed bridge has been adopted as the DfI preferred option for Newry Ship Canal, which will form part of the Newry Southern Relief Road (NSRR).
The proposed new bridge will provide clearance for vessels under 12 metres in height and provide those vessels with access to the Albert Basin area of Newry.
It means tall ships and those higher than 12-metres will effectively be prevented from reaching the Albert Basin the the city.
SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty says he, and his party, reject the decision by the Department for Infrastructure.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Department for Infrastructure has decided that they want the Southern Relief Road Project to proceed without a facility to allow tall ships or boats to pass through the waterway.
“I am strongly opposed to this decision, not just because it is bad news for Newry, but because I do not believe that the Department has the authority to make that decision on behalf of our people. That decision can, and should, only be made by a Minister for Infrastructure.
“Newry’s maritime history is a rich part of our heritage. Our waterways were the bedrock of commerce and industry in our region.
“We have the oldest shipping canal on these islands and at a time when we have seen an announcement of significant investment in the regeneration of the Ulster Canal, it is unacceptable that the Department for Infrastructure is comfortable with signing a death warrant for Newry Canal.
“Every political party in this region is committed to the delivery of the Albert Basin Park. How they can it make sense to completely cut the Albert Basin off from shipping and boating?
“Newry deserves better than decisions being made by unelected officials in offices in Belfast without a jot of consultation with the local community.
“I have requested an urgent meeting with the most senior civil servant in the Department for Infrastructure to challenge this decision and ultimately get it reversed. I would urge other elected representatives, community groups, and local citizens to join me in opposing this short-sighted and damaging decision for Newry.”
Sinn Féin’s Liz Kimmins expressed her disappointment that a fixed bridge, not a lifting one, has been chosen for the Southern Relief Road.
The Newry & Armagh MLA said: “This is an issue I repeatedly raised in Stormont. Our waterways are an excellent resource, with a lot of potential. This decision will come as a disappointment to many in the community.”