A public inquiry into plans to upgrade one of Ireland's most dangerous roads has been told it’s "time to end the carnage".

Hundreds of people attended the hearings in Omagh in Co Tyrone to examine a delayed scheme to upgrade the A5, part of the main road link between Donegal and Dublin.

Pupils from local schools and members of GAA clubs joined relatives of many of those killed in accidents along the route.

At least 47 people have died along the 86km road since a plan to upgrade the entire route to a dual carriageway was approved by the Stormont Assembly in 2007.

The scheme is backed by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland but has been delayed by a series of legal challenges.

The chair of the Enough is Enough campaign group, established earlier this year by the GAA’s Tyrone County Board, urged the inquiry panel to give its backing to the scheme.

"It’s time to stop the carnage, it’s time to stop the slaughter," said Niall McKenna.

"I implore you, for the love of God, to agree with us that enough is enough."

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A number of relatives of those killed on the road spoke at today’s hearing, which had to be moved to the Strule Arts Centre to accommodate the large numbers who wanted to attend.

They included Kevin McCloughan, whose 19-year-old son Maurice and his friend Killian Doherty, 19, died in an accident on the A5 in November 2018.

He spoke of the devastation of losing "our wee idol".

In a message to those opposing the upgrade, he asked them to "try putting yourselves in our shoes".

He added: "We are members of a club no one wants to be a member of."

At least 47 people have been killed on the A5 road - the main transport link between Dublin and Donegal

The first week's hearings focused on technical issues including an environmental statement.

This the focus is on road safety issues and justification for the project.

Conor Sally, solicitor for Enough is Enough, told the inquiry panel that it was "the day that people have been waiting for to have their say".

Giving evidence, SDLP Assembly member for West Tyrone Daniel McCrossan criticised those objecting to the project on environmental grounds, saying "nothing outweighs the loss of human life".

He said those bereaved as a result of accidents on the A5 "are living and breathing the pain every single day".

One of the first to give evidence was Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, who was Minister for Regional Development at Stormont when the project was approved in July 2007.

He spoke of his frustration that 16 years later lives are still being lost because legal challenges have delayed the planned improvement scheme.

Mr Murphy said the said the A5 Western Transport Corridor project will be a key commitment for any future power sharing Stormont Executive.

Niall McKenna, chair of the A5 campaign group, Enough is Enough

Adrian McCrory, a director with Omagh based engineering firm Adman, told the inquiry "every inch of the A5 is not fit for purpose".

The company employs 300 people and, has a fleet of 150 vehicles, many of which use the road multiple times every day.

"One of the major health and safety risks for our employees is travelling on the A5," he said.

The original estimate for the project was £800m, but that has soared to £1.6bn, double the original forecast.

Plunkett Nugent, barrister for Enough is Enough, was strongly critical of a proposal by the Alternative A5 Alliance, which has repeatedly legally challenged the plans, for a new rail line between Dungannon and Derry.

"If it has taken us sixteen years not to build a road that has been agreed, God only knows how long it will take to build a railway that has not even been agreed," he said.

Mr Nugent also said he will present evidence to the inquiry tomorrow that the aim of the opposition group is to delay the plan for long enough to make it economically unviable.