A5 Road Upgrade

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party 10:30, 16 April 2024

It will come as no surprise to the House that I rise again today to raise the important issue of the A5, particularly after another life was lost on the road last week. Oonagh Burns, aged 35, died on 7 April when travelling from Derry towards Strabane. She went off the road and sadly lost her life. Her death marks 50 people who have died on this treacherous road since 2007. Fifty deaths. Fifty families left with that pain and sense of tremendous loss. This month also marks the one-year anniversary of the terrible deaths of the three members of the McKane family, who died at the end of April last year on the Aughnacloy section of the A5. This road leaves devastation in its wake at every single stretch. There is no family in Tyrone and beyond that has not been touched to some degree by this road.

There are delays and delays and delays, and those delays are costing lives. We cannot afford any further delays. I do not stand here to make a political point; I stand here in desperation because, with every passing day, further lives are put at risk on the A5. Just this week, for the past three consecutive days, at three different sections of that road, there have been serious accidents. Three days in a row. People are desperate to see this road delivered, and the report from the public inquiry, which was very well attended, has been sitting with the Department for Infrastructure since November and with the Minister, John O'Dowd, since February. We need a decision, we need progress to be made and we need to ensure that this road is made safe.

I have listened to people online every time that I talk about this, and people are sick hearing me talk about it, but I am not going to give in until I see work begin on this road. It could be my family or anyone else's that is affected directly next. When I attended the wake of Oonagh Burns last week, her father said to me, "You never expect this to happen to your own family member, your own daughter".

I think of the Burns family today and of the community in Strabane, as we grieve another loss on that road. My plea to the House is this: whatever can be done must be done. We do not know how many more lives will be lost if we continue to see delays to work on that road.