An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will visit Inishowen on Tuesday coming to officially open the new Cockhill Bridge.
Mr Varadkar’s visit has been widely welcomed.
Deputy Joe McHugh said the Taoiseach’s return to Inishowen just over a year since the devastating floods should be a reminder to everyone of just how far we have come.
He said: “An Taoiseach will see first-hand how this Government responded to communities in dire need over the last 12 months.
“I was with the Taoiseach in the immediate aftermath of last year’s floods and he understood the trauma and shock many in the region had experienced.
“The trail of destruction had to be seen first-hand to be believed and the same has to be said of this Government’s response,” said Mr McHugh.
Minister McHugh praised the Government’s post-flood €20 million investment in Inishowen.
He said: “The Taoiseach will now see for himself how close to €20million has been invested responding to the needs of the people of north-east Donegal, an investment that quickly brought the area back to a sense of normality
“We had more than 300 stretches of roads and bridges across Inishowen that had to be repaired and reopened and this was done in double quick time thanks to a special €10million fund from central Government.
“We had scores of families to re-house and support, many of whom were helped with a €5million humanitarian fund. We had more than 300 farmers to assist and we did so with grants of up to €15,000 each. These were the immediate priorities and when people were vulnerable and in need we answered and we delivered.
“Elsewhere, we secured €1.5 million for the immediate clean up. We had more than 130 soldiers on the ground helping the people of Inishowen for a week. And about €270,000 was secured for flood-hit sports clubs including Cockhill Celtic, Illies Celtic, Naomh Colmcille GAA in Newtowncunningham and Clonmany Shamrocks. These investments were all about responding to people’s immediate needs and getting our focus and our priorities right,” said Minister McHugh.
Deputy McHugh acknowledged the “ongoing” post-flood work, which remains to be carried out in Inishowen.
He said: “I will continue to raise the need to expedite flood relief in Burnfoot.”
Buncrana Councillor Jack Murray (Sinn Féin) said the official opening of Cockhill Bridge would be a “great day” and pressed the case for An Taoiseach to visit the devastated Swan Park in Buncrana.
Cllr Murray said: “The official opening of Cockhill Bridge will be a great day, particularly for all those community activists who fought for decades to have it completed. It is the culmination of all their work that we now have a state of the art, modern and safe bridge for pedestrians and motorists alike.
“While I welcome the fact that the Taoiseach recognises the importance of this piece of infrastructure and will attend the opening in person, I think it would be a missed opportunity if he didn't also visit Swan Park to see the current situation there.
“My colleague, Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, has already written to the Taoiseach and asked him to take the short journey from Cockhill to Swan Park so he can witness himself how this beautiful amenity remains in ruin. I would hope that he would agree to that request.
“Leo Varadkar was one of many leading government figures who arrived with national media to reassure that people of Inishowen that everything would be restored after the floods. Now, a year after Swan Park was destroyed, no government department has stepped up and committed to funding the necessary works,” said Cllr Murray.
Cllr Murray cautioned that the opening of
Cockhill Bridge should not be another “PR opportunity.”
He said: “An Taoiseach needs to see the state of Swan Park and further, he needs to take action and have it restored as patience has long worn out in this community."
Buncrana Councillor Rena Donaghey (Fianna Fáil), who lived in Cockhill Park, which overlooked the Old Cockhill Bridge for 30 years, said it would be an “honour” to have An Taoiseach in Inishowen for the official opening of the Mew Cockhill Bridge.
Cllr Donaghey said: “Everyone in this area was very aware of the need for a new bridge and we had an extremely long wait for it to come to fruition. We did not see much movement on the issue until Deputy Joe McHugh facilitated a meeting between all of the Inishowen councillors and Minister Paschal Donohoe in April 2016.
“In May 2017, the first sod was turned on the New Cockhill Bridge, which is the main artery to North Inishowen and a vital part of the peninsula’s roads infrastructure.
“As we approach the Official Opening of the bridge, I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the design team, the planners, the landowners and the Inishowen County Council workers who carried out the ancillary works connected with the new bridge.
“I am delighted that Donegal County Council has agreed to my request that the Old Cockhill Bridge be lit up at night. It will be a beautiful feature on the landscape,” said Cllr Donaghey.
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