MLAs in war of words over A2 project

Published on Friday 9 March 2012 10:23

A POLITICAL row is gathering momentum over who secured the go ahead for the A2 upgrade.

The war of words was sparked after Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson took a sideswipe at the UUP when welcoming last month’s multi-million announcement for the long-awaited scheme. Hitting back, UUP MLA Roy Beggs also drew in DUP rival Sammy Wilson MLA.

Mr Wilson, who is also Finance Minister and the MP for East Antrim, responded this week by accusing Mr Beggs, whose party colleague Danny Kennedy is Roads Minister, of marring a good news story for the area.

Mr Wilson asked: “Must he reduce everything to petty point scoring about who did what, who is the greatest and who cares most about the East Antrim constituency? The fact of the matter is that there was extensive lobbying for the A2 from citizens, businesses, the traders association, the council and every MLA over a sustained period of time. To quibble about who made the announcement is so childish and it brings politicians generally, but Mr Beggs in particular, into total disrepute.

“For the record as Finance Minister, funds were made available in the budget last year for the A2 -however the then Sinn Fein Minister decided, as was his right, to allocate the funds to projects which did not include the A2. When it came to the redistribution of the A5 funding I discussed a range of projects with a range of ministers before drawing up a definitive list of projects which could go ahead.

“The First and deputy First Minister, the DRD minister and I agreed that the A2 should be one of those projects and unlike previous allocations the money is ring-fenced for this scheme. This has been agreed by the whole Executive and rather than quibble about who is responsible for what was a corporate decision, why can Mr Beggs not just accept that at long last there is light at the end of the tunnel for the long suffering commuters who travel from Carrickfergus to Belfast and back again every day?”

It was while making similar observations about Mr Dickson after the £57m dualling project was confirmed, that Mr Beggs trained his sights on Mr Wilson.

Mr Beggs stated: “I find it really sad to read Mr Dickson bringing silly party politics into this issue. He should know that the Finance Minister made the initial announcement in the Assembly for the technical reason that this was about a reallocation of Executive funds. In any case, who actually got up to announce the funding in the Assembly is a matter of no consequence to the long suffering commuters stuck in the A2 Greenisland bottleneck.

“The Ulster Unionist Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy was instrumental in getting the funding for the A2 put in place- based on objective need. Would this have happened if Sinn Fein had retained the DRD Post? I very much doubt it. By reprioritising the A2 the Ulster Unionist Party has, I am proud to say delivered on our election manifesto. People should not forget that it was a budget decision last year by the DUP and Sinn Fein- fully supported by the Alliance Party which had put the Greenisland scheme on hold in the first place.”

In the statement that kick-started the flurry of claim and counter-claim, Mr Dickson said: “It can’t be missed that the DUP Finance Minister announced these moves rather than the UUP Minister responsible for the roads. This demonstrates that the DUP is gobbling up the fast-fading UUP.”

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