Unionists hail Heathrow boost to Northern Ireland economy

Lord Empey said the Belfast-Heathrow route was vital for NI's economy
Lord Empey said the Belfast-Heathrow route was vital for NI's economy

A third runway at Heathrow is good news for economic prosperity in Northern Ireland, Lord Empey has said.

After years of deliberation, the Government gave the go-ahead for the airport expansion on Tuesday.

The Ulster Unionist peer said: “Heathrow is the UK’s national hub, indeed because of its importance I have introduced a private members bill into the Lords, which seeks a legal guarantee for regional airports to maintain slots at our busiest airport.”

Lord Empey added: “The Belfast to London Heathrow routes are vital for economic prosperity in Northern Ireland. The announcement today will go some way to ensure the future of our linkages to the nation’s capital.”

His UUP colleague Danny Kinahan also welcomed the decision, but said he appreciated the “environmental and local concerns” of residents.

The South Antrim MP added: “It is vital that we continue to build our airport capacity in the United Kingdom to encourage investment and keep the economy growing.

“Airport expansion should not be a question of either Heathrow or Gatwick, we should be ambitious enough to expand both.”

Nigel Dodds of the DUP said: “The announcement has been welcomed by the DUP – the first political parliamentary party to back Heathrow – as well as the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Belfast City Airport and Titanic Belfast.”

The North Belfast MP said the decision would help boost the whole of the UK economy including Northern Ireland.

“The Airports Commission assessed that Heathrow expansion will deliver up to 5,000 new jobs and inject £3.9bn in growth. It is the only option that will unlock global opportunities for local businesses, facilitating trade and investment by ensuring that Northern Ireland is connected to the economic powerhouses of tomorrow.

“An expanded Heathrow will not only see routes from Belfast City potentially increased – staving off the potential for frequencies to reduce – and also see new flights to Belfast International (by Easyjet) and new flights to Derry City Airport (by Flybe),” he added.

The DUP MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley, said: “The benefit to Northern Ireland is huge as it is clear it will support growth and strengthen the Union.

“In line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s three priorities Heathrow will boost exports, attract inward investment and bring in more tourists, essential to Northern Ireland’s economy.”