Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Dublin-Belfast Road.

Jim Mitchell

Ceist:

9 Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment if he will outline the present plans for major improvements on the Dublin/Belfast Road (N1-M1); the timescale for the completion of these improvements; and if he has any plans to provide a motorway all the way to the Border in this decade.

Overall roads strategy envisages the upgrading of the N1, from Dublin to the Border, to motorway standard.

Work is in progress on the Dunleer bypass which is scheduled for completion by late 1993. Plans are at present in preparation for a by-pass of Balbriggan and for the Dunleer/Dundalk section of the route, both of which are expected to reach construction by late 1993 or early 1994, and to be completed by 1997.

The timing of work on the remaining sections of the route will be considered in the context of post-1993 operational programme. In the meantime, phases 3 and 4 of the Dundalk inner relief road, which will complete the new section of road from south of the town to Ballymascanlon are to proceed.

Is the Minister aware of a report showing that the amount of trade between the Republic and Northern Ireland is much below what is could be? Is he further aware that, for instance, the report claims that if we could double our trade with Northern Ireland it would lead to a very significant increase in employment in the Republic and that the point is made that what is inhibiting this trade is access to the North? In the same report it is urged that a motorway should be built to the Border. Because of our grave unemployment statistics, would the Minister not accept that we ought to be thinking of bringing forward the deadline for a motorway as far as Dundalk?

I do accept the Deputy's point in relation to new possibilities of developing greater trade between North and South. There is substantial evidence that there are clear inroads to be made which would benefit both communities. The Government will be anxious to facilitate such progress. As I have outlined, the present plans are proceeding apace. Substantial funds are being provided in the context of the present operational programme. As regards stretching the possibilities in the next operational programme it would appear that what will be involved will be figures well in excess of £100 million being spent on that route. There are the questions of CPOs, discussions with local community groups and so on, but I take the point generally. We will proceed and advance as quickly as possible having regard to resources and development of the necessary routes.