£3m for City of Derry Airport will 'secure facility's immediate future'
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The funding from the Department for Infrastructure, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, which will go towards the running costs of the airport, has been described as significant boost for the facility.
Steve Frazer, Managing Director at City of Derry Airport, said: "This announcement will help to secure the airport's immediate future as a key piece of infrastructure serving the North West and our regional economy. This goes some way to addressing the uncertainty our staff have faced year on year, and allows us to focus on improving the connectivity for everyone in the North West.
"That recognition of our contribution to the region and the burden which until now, has been fully shouldered by the rates payers of Derry and Strabane is a positive step in addressing this imbalance, while retaining the benefits enjoyed by everyone across our wider region.
"The North West has huge potential for businesses to invest and an abundance of potential for increased tourism. Increased connectivity through our local airport is key to maximising the potential of this fantastic region and benefiting all who live, work and visit here."
The Derry air facility has had to cope with budget shortfalls over several years and in December 2020 the Auditor General Kieran Donnelly told the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, speaking in relation to the airport's finances, said: “If you do an appraisal by the book, you know, the airport isn’t going to wipe its face and financially it will need ongoing subsidy. That’s just a fact of life on it.”
Earlier this year the Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirmed that a business case for support for City of Derry Airport over the next five or six years was due for consideration by his department.
Following the announcement that fresh funding is being provided by regional government, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke said: "This has been a very challenging period and this support provides another boost to the stability of the City of Derry Airport and renewed confidence in the services it has to offer. The airport has a vital role to play in the growth of the local economy, and this funding will aid the ongoing work on route development and securing further investment in the facility.
"The airport is the gateway to the North West Region and is of major strategic importance to local tourism and business, feeding into the economies on both sides of the border. We really need sustained and targeted support for high-quality transport projects that will enhance regional connectivity, and we will continue with the work to explore further opportunities to attract investment and promote connectivity throughout the City and District and wider region."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the funding would provide certainty over the airport's future.
“Far too often in recent years doubt has been cast over the future of City of Derry Airport. This merry go round not only causes serious worry for staff about their futures, but the uncertainty scares off potential investment in the airport and airlines are hesitant to commit to new routes in the absence of guarantees.
“This funding from SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon will help to secure the airport's future and allow it to make concrete plans going forward. There is huge potential for City of Derry to expand and grow, it is the only major airport in the entire north-west of this island and we need to focus on attracting new routes and airlines so that it can establish itself in its own right as a choice for travellers alongside Belfast and Dublin," stated the Foyle MP.
SDLP Assembly Election candidate for Foyle Sinéad McLaughlin said: "I very much welcome the new funding for the City of Derry Airport, which has been announced by SDLP infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon.
"This is excellent news and once again reflects the SDLP's commitment to work for our communities and for the North West. The airport remains a key part of our local infrastructure, serving people and the economy."