Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster remained tight-lipped about details of a multimillion pound investment package for City of Derry Airport during a flying visit to the Bogside this morning, Thursday, September 14, but both said agreement has been reached on a major development that will act as a catalyst for economic development in the North West.
The Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the plans go far beyond a new air link to London and insisted it was right to publicly subsidise the local facility as long as the infrastructural deficit persists in the Derry area.
Mr McGuinness said: “Agreement has been reached. It’s a multimillion pound project. It’s about saving the airport but not just saving the airport.
“We believe that within what we are trying to do, and of course, we haven’t disclosed our full plans for the airport.
“The plans are greater than just getting air links to London.
“We are absolutely satisfied at this stage that we can make a success of the City of Derry Airport if we are successful in the plans we are pursuing at the moment, which as I said, are bigger than just airplanes into the airport.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The discussions that are ongoing at the moment in and around finding a catalyst for employment opportunities and indeed to sustain the operation of the City of Derry Airport.
“Those discussions are ongoing and I hope we can come to a conclusion in relation to those in the very near future.
“Officials are currently working on that at the moment.”
Mr McGuinness said the Eglinton airport can be self-funding but that even if that weren’t the case it would still be a worthwhile investment financially.
“We’re trying to reach a stage where City of Derry Airport is sustainable financially but, if we have to support the airport with finance from the Executive, I think it is the right thing to do because people here in the North West, waiting on the new roads, which hopefully are going to begin this year, beginning with the A6 and next year with the A5, are entitled to connectivity with places like London, Dublin and elsewhere and if we have to invest in that I’m not going to apologise to anybody for doing that.”
Mrs Foster also said subsidies are worthwhile investments when you look at the overall benefit to the local economy.
“We have to look at the whole picture, not just part of the picture. When you look at the whole picture up here in the North West, and I’ve heard very clearly from the business community in the North West how important the airport is for their business, and therefore I think we have to listen to that and make the appropriate decision but as I say discussions are near the end and officials will hopefully be able to give us some clarity in relation to those matters soon.”