A5: Martin McGuinness issues an ultimatum over road project

A5 road sign
Image caption The A5 dual carriageway scheme would link Dublin to the north west of Northern Ireland but the project has been hit by funding problems and environmental objections in the past

The deputy first minister has said he will not agree a programme for government after the assembly election if work on the A5 road does not start in 2016.

Martin McGuinness said he is confident that the project between Londonderry and Aughnacloy will "definitely happen".

The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said on Tuesday he welcomed the Irish government's commitment to a renewed focus on the A5.

The cross-border project, which would lessen journey times by up to 20 minutes, stalled in 2013 due to a ruling by the High Court.

The story of the A5 so far:

The total cost of the 55-mile upgrade - which would create a key cross-border business route linking Dublin to the north west - was to be £850m.

At a Sinn Féin public meeting, held in Derry on Wednesday night, Mr McGuinness said he "spoke to Peter Robinson and he is also committed".

"I have nailed my colours to the mast on the project.

"If the project doesn't go ahead in the aftermath of the next assembly elections, which is only a few months away, we will will not be agreeing a programme for government.

"I would have every expectation that work on the A5 will start in just over a year from now.

"Those people who say that the A5 is dead in the water are going to get a big surprise."

Image caption A crowd of around 300 people gathered at the meeting in Derry

Mr McGuinness was broadly positive about the current political talks at Stormont but critical of the government.

He emphasised that if agreement is not reached in the next couple of weeks "there will be no future for the executive".

During his speech he also condemned the murders of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan, describing those responsible as "criminals".

He added that during recent trouble in North Belfast some unionist ministers were "hopping like penguins as they stood beside the UVF fermenting trouble on the streets".

Mr McGuinness said there were individuals within the PSNI that would never accept him or Sinn Féin in power.

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