Derry Airport ‘is not going to wipe its face’

The Permanent Secretary at the Department for Infrastructure raised value for money concerns about the £1.233m support package for City of Derry Airport, it has emerged.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 5:34 pm

The grant was approved by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Finance Minister Conor Murphy last month to cover a budget shortfall.

It emerged at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday that Katrina Godfrey, DfI Permanent Secretary, wrote to the Auditor General Kieran Donnelly on November 16 about funding for the airport.

Mr. Donnelly, was asked about Ms. Godfrey’s assessment by the Committee Chair, William Humphrey: “What’s your opinion, Mr. Donnelly, on the assertion by Katrina Godfrey around the issue of value for money?”

City of Derry Airport (Lorcan Doherty Photography)

He replied: “It’s always been the department’s assertion that you couldn’t construct a business case to actually have an economic appraisal that would give you a positive value for money verdict on the rules, as they go, for appraisals.

“There are arguments wider than that in terms of - maybe intangibles - in terms of benefits to the local community in the north west, and they are usually in these types of directions, the wider benefits that you can’t put a figure on, that are used to approve a direction.”

Mr. Donnelly said there have been four ministerial directions of funding for the airport over the past 20 years or so - in 1999, 2007, 2011 and now in 2020.

In relation to Ms. Godfrey’s view of the latest bail-out Mr. Donnelly 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.”

Ex-Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Maolíosa McHugh MLA said: “I do know that with the intervention by council and everybody else previously that was a figure roughly of around £10/£11m and yet [the airport’s] contribution to the local economy was somewhere in the region of £18m. There was no confusion however about just how vital and important it is to the economy of the north west.”