Sinn Fein raised questions about the cost and ethos of next year’s event at a committee meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council on Tuesday.
The show was cancelled last year to save £240,000 bill as the council is £69m in debt.
No budget has been set for next year’s event, as the details have not yet been decided. It is proposed to take place between Portrush and Portstewart on 11 and 12 September.
But Sinn Féin councillor Dermot Nicholl said he was “galled” that plans were being put in place before a budget was confirmed. He claimed it could cost “between £500,000 and £750,000” and said that in the past it had been “like a military fest” and made people “very uncomfortable”.
“I don’t see why people in our council area should be stumping up for something like this” the BBC quoted him as saying.
But the DUP MP for the area, Gregory Campbell, said the event made economic sense.
“The air show will be a major event of regional significance, drawing in visitors from across Northern Ireland and beyond,” he told the News Letter. “The air show previously brought in £2.5m for the wider region and attracted 200,000 people.”
But acknowledging the cost, he added that there should be “a concerted drive to attract funders” as it would also mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
UUP councillor Norman Hillis responded that Sinn Fein’s comments “reflect the views of a party which is firmly stuck in the past, while the rest of the people want to build a vibrant, welcoming society.”
He told the News Letter comments about the show being like “a military fest” demonstrate a “complete lack of self-awareness” on display from a party that has “no problem” with IRA commemorations. He noted that IRA bombs and shootings in Portrush and Coleraine had left people feeling “a lot more than ‘very uncomfortable’.”
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said Sinn Fein’s comments were “utterly disgraceful”. He said the event is “a landmark event for the entire north coast area”. It is also an opportunity to market NI, promote STEM subjects, showcase engineering opportunities and present the airforce that recently helped thousands flee Afghanistan, he added.
Sinn Fein was invited to respond to the DUP and UUP comments.
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