NI exploring new air route development fund

Improving connectivity seen as essential

Officials in Northern Ireland are exploring the potential of a new air route development fund to attract more airlines and create new routes, the North’s Deputy First Minister has said in Belfast.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce annual lunch on Thursday Martin McGuinness told business leaders that it was essential that the North improved its “connectivity”.

As part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s drive to do that Mr McGuinness said political leaders are continuing to campaign to the UK Treasury for a reduction in air passenger taxes specifically from the North.

The three local airports, particularly Belfast International and George Best City Airport, have been bitterly annoyed about recent figures which showed that a record number of people from Northern Ireland chose to travel through Dublin Airport last year.


Statistics produced by Dublin Airport detailed that 864,000 people from Northern Ireland drove south to fly from Dublin last year rather than fly from their local airports.

Mr McGuinness said improving air connections from the North would not only increase its attractiveness as a business investment location and help local companies export goods around the world but also encourage more tourists to visit.

The Deputy First Minister told his business audience that he was determined to work with them and all his Executive colleagues to “create a ‘pro business’ environment”.

“But it would be a glaring omission today if I did not address the enormous challenges that now face the Executive, our devolved institutions and our society at the widest level,” Mr McGuinness said.

“We are facing into a political and financial crisis within the Executive and it’s not one created by the political parties but a crisis that has been inflicted upon us by the economic policies of the Conservative government in Westminster. I know my party’s concerns are shared by ministerial colleagues from all Executive parties,” the Deputy First Minister added.

He said the Executive currently faced “enormous difficulties and challenges”

“But we have faced enormous challenges before and we have found a way forward and that remains my focus,” Mr McGuinness said.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business