"I feel like no one cares": Mum's anguish as no funding allocated to improve road where son died

Monica Heaney's links to the A1 are personal.

In 2018, her son Karl who was 27, was killed in a collision in one of the most notorious stretches of the road linking Hillsborough and Loughbrickland.

He was a keen Gaelic footballer and had moved to Belfast to try and limit how much he would use the road he died on.

Years before Karl's death and particularly after, there have been calls for improvements to be made to the road.

Right-turn lay-bys and merger lanes are only some of the issues raised by those left bereaved by tragedies.

Despite consistent calls from victims' families and a public inquiry, plans are, well, just exactly that at this stage.

Plans to make the road safer have been in the pipeline for a long time but for them to materialise money is required.

The latest announcement from the Department for Infrastructure doesn't make for comfortable reading for those who care deeply about saving other families from the trauma Karl Heaney's has gone through.

In 2019, it was estimated that improvements could cost up to £75m.

However, in a statement to UTV, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said that due to 'significant cost increases' this figures is now under review and will be published in due course.

It is expected to rise at a time when no funding has been allocated to the project.

No City Deal money is coming from Westminster and in a startling admission, DfI said it isn't even a flagship project for any new potential Executive at Stormont.

"It makes me feel that, Karl's death, nobody cares," Monica Heaney told UTV in a room where she holds a bereavement support group in Newry.

She said she has been made to feel like Karl is 'just a statistic'.

In exclusive figures released to UTV by the PSNI, it can be revealed that since 2016, five people have been killed on the A1 between Hillsborough and Loughbrickland.

30 people have been seriously injured among the 133 collisions that have occurred.

It's understood work is ongoing to complete contractual documents which would allow the A1 project to move onto the next phase - procurement.

However, procuring someone to complete the project can't happen until money is secured.

"We went through the whole public inquiry," Monica added, "and the outcome was that this road had to be expedited.

"I mean they've said how dangerous it is and it has to be done now and we're three years on from there. So, I just can't understand how it can't be put at the top of a list."

15 miles of the A1 is earmarked for safety improvements.

At this stage, a visible solution to the dangers this carriageway brings, appears to be a long way off.

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