Northern Ireland

Selling Derry Airport to private sector ‘not an option,' Chris Hazzard says

Ryanair announced it is to cut its London flights from City of Derry Airport
Ryanair announced it is to cut its London flights from City of Derry Airport

SELLING the loss-making City of Derry Airport to the private sector is not an option, the Infrastructure Minister has said.

Chris Hazzard told MLAs at Stormont: "Its not something I had thought of, or (am) likely to give much consideration to in the near future."

The issue was raised during Question Time at the Assembly, hours after details of a £7 million Executive bailout were made public.

Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy questioned the value of the airport to local people.

He said: "Given the huge financial pressure experienced by both local ratepayers and taxpayers over many years in maintaining the City of Derry Airport at Eglington, will the minister and the Executive consider the option of the airport being sold into the private sector where regional airports are normally placed?

"Surely any responsible minister and any responsible executive should at least look at the option in order to include private management of that airport so that jobs can be protected in what is an essential sub-regional airport."

The airport, which has been operating with annual losses of around £2 million, is owned by Derry and Strabane District Council.

Concerns about its future peaked last week when budget carrier Ryanair said it was cutting services and axing the connection to London.

The Executive's new funding package includes £2.5 million for route development support and a £4.5 million contribution for capital investment.

First Minister Arlene Foster said it would help secure the future of the airport.

She said: "This £7 million package ensures the airport remains a key gateway to the north west for business and leisure travel."

Martin McGuinness, who visited the airport earlier, said connectivity is vital for economic development.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: "This £7 million package will enable the City of Derry Airport to invest in route development and capital projects which will create high-value jobs and training opportunities."

He added: "With Ryanair's withdrawal, having another airline in place is vital for our economic development and I am pleased discussions are at an advanced stage.

"I am confident this financial backing will enable the airport to not only function but flourish and serve all the people of the north west and further afield."