CONSTRUCTION of the much promised Southern Bypass in Enniskillen has hit a roadblock after the UK Government pulled the funding.

Documents seen by The Impartial Reporter show that Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has reallocated the money for the project.

In a letter to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Dr. Julie Harrison confirms that funding for the project “has been paused”.

She says this is as a result of the Secretary of State’s decision in April to reallocate funding from previously announced Northern Ireland packages “to account for the overspend in the 2022/23 budget for Northern Ireland”.

The project was announced by former infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon in 2021 in which she committed capital funding and was due for completion in September 2023.

The DUP continues to block the restoration of power-sharing at Stormont over a row about the Northern Ireland Protocol – a post-Brexit deal.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine said she was “dismayed” that money for the long-awaited bypass which was secured for this project following the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement had been paused as a result of the Secretary of State’s budget decisions.

She said: “I wrote to the Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) seeking an urgent reconsideration of this decision in the context of its impact on delivery and funding. I have just received a response from NIO, who have advised that discussions with HM Treasury are ongoing in relation to these funding packages, and until such times as discussions are concluded, unfortunately the funding for New Deal for NI projects is paused.”

Mrs Erskine said while she “recognised that the budgetary position is difficult”, investment into key infrastructure projects is “vital to grow the Northern Ireland economy and would signal a real, lasting commitment of the UK Government to provide true ‘levelling up’”.

The decision by the Secretary of State and the NIO is “short sighted and damaging to the economy”, she said.

Mrs. Erskine added: “I do not want Fermanagh’s strapline to be ‘Forgotten Fermanagh’. This area has so much to offer.

“We are a growing and thriving tourist destination and can boast of fantastic home-grown businesses which are an asset to our economy. But we do need further investment and one way to help our economy further is through key roads projects.

“The Department for Infrastructure has indicated that it is asking for this decision to be reconsidered. I and my party are calling for the same.

“Fermanagh cannot be left behind. If this project does not go ahead the impact could be felt for generations to come.”

When challenged by The Impartial Reporter as to why the DUP has not returned to Stormont to fight for the A4 Southern Bypass and other projects, Mrs. Erskine said: “This money was secured before Stormont went down; this is money that was way in advance of anything, of ministers being out of place.

“The Secretary of State made this decision; the DUP being in Stormont in some respects isn’t going to change his decision today or tomorrow.

“Obviously, we have championed the Southern Bypass for quite some time, and we want to see money secured for that.


“We want to see infrastructure projects as part of [the] New Decade New Approach [arrangement] and that was the agreement that was made between the government and our parties.”

When asked if the DUP takes any responsibility for losing this funding, Mrs. Erskine replied: “Absolutely not, because Treasury should be looking at the budget they give to Northern Ireland – that should be increased.”

This paper further asked would funding have been paused if Stormont was still in place?

“That is the million-pound question,” replied Mrs. Erskine.

And will the DUP now go back to Stormont to fight for the Southern Bypass?

In response, Mrs. Erskine said: “That is in the Government’s hands. The Windsor Framework has come forward; there are still concerns that are there.

“We have outlined in a paper to the Government what our concerns are. The ball is in their hands, in terms of putting forward legislation.

“We are still working [with Westminster] in terms of talks, but the ball is really in their court as to whether they will listen to us, understand our concerns and work with us to try and get a solution that will work for Northern Ireland,” she added.