“Urgent Action” sought on Union Connectivity gap

The UK Government must take “urgent action” to address the internal gap in Union connectivity created by Ryanair withdrawing from both of NI’s airports – that’s the message from Mid and East Antrim Council’s Union Connectivity Working Group.

Led by Ald. Billy Ashe and Crs Peter Johnston, Andrew Wilson and Timothy Gaston the Working Group was established with the principal aim of boosting links between M&EA and wider Northern Ireland and the three other regions of the UK. Following news that Ryanair will withdraw all routes from Belfast International and George Best Belfast City Airports in the coming weeks, the Working Group met to discuss the implications for NI. In a joint statement, they said: “We, the members of the Union Connectivity Working Group were deeply alarmed to hear the news of Ryanair’s withdrawal from both of Northern Ireland’s airports and are gravely concerned about the detrimental impact this could have on our connectivity with the regions across the UK. Strong Union connectivity has never been more important for Northern Ireland, particularly as we embark on our journey to economic recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to meet the many challenges associated with the NI Protocol. It is our links with our partner regions of the UK that will enable us to realise our full potential for sustainable economic growth, not only through exports and east-west trade but through invaluable opportunities for tourism. Any factors threatening that connectivity must be addressed and mitigated as a matter of urgency. Chief among these is Air Passenger Duty (APD), which Ryanair attributed as a key consideration leading to its decision to withdraw from Northern Ireland’s airports – and, in particular, the UK Government’s decision to reduce or suspend the levy. As such, we urge the UK Government to take urgent action to address this critical issue and prevent further catastrophic withdrawals from Northern Ireland’s airports. We would also call upon the UK Government to set out its plans on how it intends on closing this internal gap in Union connectivity.”

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