South Antrim Ulster Unionist MP, Danny Kinahan, has urged the Stormont Executive to do all in its power to ensure that Northern Ireland’s airports compete with those in the Republic of Ireland, in particular Dublin.
Mr Kinahan was speaking after a meeting of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster this morning which focused on Air Passenger Duty (APD) and its impact on Northern Ireland’s airports.
Mr Kinahan said:
“Air Passenger Duty is a socially regressive tax which is leaving Northern Ireland underperforming and lacking connectivity. The Scottish Government intends to cut APD by half, and the NI Executive ought to be following their example. I reject the Stormont Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell’s lack of ambition and his failure to act on this issue.
“We want Northern Ireland to do better and the message from our airports is unequivocal – not only is APD hindering growth, but its reduction would increase the tax take for the public purse. Airlines looking to open up new routes from the island of Ireland are being driven away from Belfast and Londonderry by APD and are instead operating out of Dublin, where APD does not apply.
“As a result, two million passengers are choosing Dublin Airport over Belfast or Londonderry every year. In industry terms, every one million passengers through an airport generates between 750 and 1,000 jobs so this figure of two million passengers a year represents at least 1400 jobs. There is no reason whatsoever why we should content ourselves with being a poor second to the Republic of Ireland.
“Minister Bell and DETI have continually failed to engage with the industry and allowed this problem to go on for years. The message from the airports to the Executive is clear: reduce APD and introduce an Air Route Development Fund, providing employment, growth and connectivity. The complete lack of any action on this issue constitutes a clear abdication of responsibility. It is time for the Executive and DETI in particular, to do more than talk”.