Covid-19 relief funding urged for Belfast International Airport

The Stormont Executive has been urged to allocate further Covid-19 relief funding to Belfast International Airport.

Last week Belfast International chief executive Graham Keddie announced his airport will not be able to continue remaining open 24/7 after major airlines reduced the number of routes they operate.

Mr Keddie added that the airport had remained open around the clock during lockdown at a cost of around £65,000 (€73,000) per day to accommodate medical emergency flights, military and PSNI traffic, the Royal Mail and all cargo flights.

The airport was not among businesses to benefit from £300 million Covid-19 relief allocations announced by the North’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy on Monday.

TUV leader Jim Allister asked Mr Murphy why “Northern Ireland’s primary airport” had not been included.

Mr Murphy said he intends to bring a paper to the Executive next week around airport funding.

“When we made a previous payment in relation to airports, at that stage the International did not require any assistance from us, it’s very clear now they do and we’re working through that with them,” he told MLAs.

“There was £10 million sitting in reserve for the airports and I hope by next week to be able to identify whichever department is to pay that out, probably Infrastructure, but to work that through with Belfast International, the City and City of Derry as well.”

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs queried of Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon why further support has not been provided to Belfast International Airport.

In response to a written Assembly Question, Ms Mallon said her department was asked to facilitate the distribution of emergency funding on behalf of the Executive to Belfast City and the City of Derry airports.

“I am committed to working with both my Executive colleagues in the Department for the Economy and the Department for Finance to identify and put in place any appropriate support for Belfast International Airport,” she said.

“I have accepted an invitation to meet with Belfast International Airport representatives, along with my ministerial colleagues in the Department of Finance and the Department for the Economy, given the different statutory responsibilities we each hold in respect of airports and connectivity.”

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