The construction of the first new bridge between the Republic and Northern Ireland since partition moved a step closer today.

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood granted planning permission for the bridge across the River Newry at Narrow Water.

However, there are still a number of hurdles before the project becomes a reality.

Louth County Council is waiting on a decision from An Bord Pleanála relating to the 660m cable suspension bridge.

Local authorities in Louth and Down have jointly sought funding from the EU Special Projects Body for most of the estimated €20m cost.

The decision has been welcomed by Louth County Council Chairman Finnan McCoy.

He said the new bridge would have tremendous potential to develop the area, but would also be a "powerful symbol of peace".

The site is close to where 18 British soldiers were killed in an IRA ambush at Warrenpoint on 27 August 1979.

One man, a British citizen, was killed on the southern side when the soldiers opened fire.