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Irish minister urges southerners to visit the north

The Republic's foreign minister Charlie Flanagan has urged southerners to head north

A SENIOR Irish politician has urged southern holidaymakers to come north for a break.

The Republic's foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan said he was surprised by the number of people he met in the south who had never ventured over the border.

And he said travel between north and south was the "key to improved relations and to benefit all of our people".

"Many people are looking towards holidays. Some haven't made their final plans yet. For those who are staying at home on the island I would ask people to put Northern Ireland as a menu option in terms of their travel," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"I'm struck really over the years by the number of people, not only in my constituency but across the south, who haven't been to Northern Ireland."

Mr Flanagan said the north was a great tourist destination.

"I would ask that people consider a day out in Northern Ireland, an overnight in Northern Ireland, meet some people, have a look at the scenery," he said.

"I think it's got an awful lot to offer in terms of an attractive place to visit."

When asked about reported tensions between all-Ireland body Tourism Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Mr Flanagan said: "I think it's important that we work hand in hand. I see on a daily basis holidaymakers from Northern Ireland choosing to some south and that helps ensure that on an island basis we'll have a record year for tourism."

"I regret the fact that over the years my visits were less frequent than they should have been. And I am surprised when I go to schools in my constituency of Laois-Offaly. I ask the children 'hands up who's been to Spain' and all the hands go up, I ask 'who's been to Portugal' and half the hands go up and I say 'hands up who's been to Northern Ireland' and no hands go up."

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