A BRIDGE between Scotland and Northern Ireland should be considered seriously, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

His comments come after it was reported last month that Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked government officials to investigate whether it could be done.

The National revealed in January that a leading architect believed such a bridge could help to create a “Celtic powerhouse” and cost a fraction of the one proposed by Johnson between England and France.

Professor Alan Dunlop said that a combined road and rail crossing could be erected between Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway and Larne in Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: Bridge from Scotland to Ireland could create 'Celtic powerhouse'

Now Varadkar has lent his weight to the idea, saying it should be assessed properly rather than be dismissed out of hand.

“Prime Minister Johnson is genuinely interested in taking a serious look at this idea of building a bridge between Antrim and Scotland,” he said. “I know people dismiss it, but I don’t. It needs to be looked at. It needs to be at least examined.

“I’ve seen what the Chinese have got ... 100km-long bridges. I don’t know if it is viable but I also don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand and I know he is particularly excited about that one.”

The DUP have previously indicated support for a bridge and, in July, Johnson said he was “an enthusiast” about the possibility.

“I’m going to put it out there, I think it’s a good idea but again that is the kind of project that should be pursued by a dynamic Northern Ireland government championed by local people with local consent and interest, backed by local business and mobilised by the politicians in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Last month it transpired that both the Department for Transport and the Treasury had been asked for advice on the risks and costs of a bridge.

Johnson told them he wanted to find out “where the money would come from” and the “risks around the project” which includes Second World War munitions jettisoned in the Irish Sea.

Dunlop told The National he thought it would cost between £15 billion to £20bn – considerably less than his “conservative “estimate” of £120bn for Johnson’s proposed English Channel bridge.

“A bridge between Scotland and Ireland would be a big step in creating a ‘Celtic powerhouse’ and give politicians the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure of the true north,” said Dunlop, of Liverpool University’s school of architecture.

He added: “It might even prevent London and the south east from sinking into the Channel under the weight of investment in that region.
Brexit is an interesting wrinkle as a bridge might help with the debate about customs, borders and access to the European market.”

Dunlop said a suspension rail and road bridge like that which connects Denmark and Sweden across the Oresund Strait could be built from Portpatrick to Larne, although he warned that Beaufort’s Dyke would be a challenge.

“A combined sea and suspension railway and road bridge much like that which connects Denmark and Sweden across the Oresund Strait could work. The part above the dyke would have to float but be tied to the bottom, much like an oil rig,” he said.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has said it is “certainly not averse” to the proposal but there were other “more immediate” investment priorities” such as the trunk roads network to the motorways from the Cairnryan ports.

The Scottish Government said that while they were always keen to look at how connections between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could be strengthened, there were “an obvious number” of practical obstacles and challenges to the bridge idea.

“It would require a robust assessment of the costs or benefits of such a project in the first instance,” said a spokesperson.