I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 221, inclusive, together.
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for each local authority.
The Irish Government supported the original decision by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) to approve the allocation of EU funding to the Narrow Water bridge project and committed an upfront funding contribution of €3.9 million in January this year. The funding which was to be provided by my Department for the Narrow Water Bridge Project represented a significant commitment given the current financial circumstances. This funding contribution was due to be matched with a contribution from the Northern Ireland authorities in line with the agreed funding ratios for the Programme.
The Government was disappointed that the tender process resulted in a doubling of the initial estimated cost budgeted for by the project partners for the construction of the bridge. The Government has indicated on many occasions that it would be willing to help to address the shortfall in funding for the Narrow Water Bridge, but this depended entirely on matching contributions from the other parties, including the Northern Ireland Executive. Also, we could not agree to be solely responsible for any further overruns.
As the Deputy will be aware, as part of the recovery programme that this Government has had to pursue to put the country back on its feet, unfortunately, there will be a further reduction in regional and local roads spending in 2014 of over €60 million. Ultimately it is from this budget that any additional funding from this State would have had to come and we would not have been in a position to provide a further €10 million towards this project as well as to underwrite any potential further overspend. The estimated figure of a requirement from my Department of €10 million was based on correspondence received from SEUPB and Louth County Council. Given the significant difference between the initial estimates and the returned tender prices, the Deputy will appreciate the need to take a conservative approach to the funding requests.
The progression and importance of this project has been discussed with my government colleagues and on a number of occasions at the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) most recently on the 8th of November. The priority is to avoid the loss of the EU funding involved. As the Deputy will be aware, members of the party that he leads are members of the Northern Ireland Executive and of the NSMC.
It is important to note that there are time constraints with regard to the INTERREG funding. It has to be spent by 2015. SEUPB has now decided to withdraw the letter of offer and has indicated that it proposes to re-allocate the funding to eligible projects capable of being delivered before the end of 2015. I know that officials in my Department and the Department for Regional Development have identified possible replacement projects, that will benefit cross-border communication in the transport sector and will be working up proposals for consideration by SEUPB.