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Portpatrick drama ends – but bridge questions remain

PORTPATRICK harbour has reopened after police sealed off the area for hours on Monday following the discovery of what's thought to be a wartime shell aboard a fishing boat. A Royal Navy bomb squad took the explosive away from the village for examination but there are concerns it came from a huge weapons dump off the Wigtownshire coast - which lies in the way of the ‘Boris Bridge' to Ireland. The drama began yesterday afternoon when the crew of a scallop boat berthed in Portpatrick spotted a suspicious object as they worked on the boat's steel dredge bags. The picturesque harbour was sealed off while the Navy bomb squad made their way to the scene. The experts examined the shell, said to be about nine inches in length, and decided it was safe enough to remove from the boat. It is estimated that over a millions tons of surplus ammo was dumped into Beaufort's Dyke, between Scotland and Northern Ireland, after the Second World War. Some of the shells contained mustard gas and nerve agents we stockpiled to retaliate if Hitler used chemical weapons on us. Although most of it was to be dumped in the 1,000ft-deep Dyke, the crews ditching the ammo would sometimes throw it over the side of their ships early in bad weather or if they wanted to get back to Cairnryan in time for a drink. It means ammo is scattered all over the seabed and no one knows exactly where it is or what state it's in. A similar dump off the Belgian coast was said to be leaking mustard gas last year. Boris Johnson has publicly back the idea of a bridge linking Portpatrick to Northern Ireland, but there are big worries about the ammo, which could still be dangerous even after 70 years. Phosphorous sticks from RAF incendiary bombs have washed up on the coast of Wigtownshire before. When they dry out , they burn furiously and the public were warned not to go near anything suspicious looking. With political support for a bridge on both sides of the North Channel, the UK Government is ‘scoping' possible bridge sites. In order to avoid the Dyke, one suggestion is that a tunnel section could go under the ammo dump. But at over 1,000ft down, it would become the world's deepest road tunnel. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack – MP for Dumfries and Galloway – said earlier this year: “The best solution is a tunnel. We will look at the other options, but it could be a hundred days a year when you wouldn't be able to use a bridge.” The bridge/tunnel could, Mr Jack suggested, be open by 2030.

<< back Published: 04 May 2020, 19:19