McGuinness was flight route regular
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he regularly travels on the Cork air route at the centre of the crash tragedy.
The senior Sinn Fein figure said he had considered taking a flight ahead of a canvass in the Cork area planned for Friday by party colleagues contesting the Republic's General Election.
He extended his condolences to the families of those who had died and been injured in the tragedy.
At a press conference in Belfast City Airport, where the flight took off en route to Cork, Mr McGuinness said: "This is a very shocking and deeply saddening event.
"The loss of lives is awful and our hearts go out to the families of all those who have been bereaved and indeed the families of those people who have been injured."
He said the Stormont administration is in contact with police on both sides of the border and is offering all the assistance it can to help.
Mr McGuinness added: "This is a route I have travelled on a number of occasions - in fact I am going to be in Munster tomorrow and I had contemplated travelling on this flight, but that changed due to other circumstances."
The Office of First and Deputy First Minister later clarified the remarks and said Mr McGuinness considered travelling the route, but had not been scheduled to take the ill-fated flight.
Mr McGuinness added: "I am very conscious of the fact that this is a flight that is frequented by people from the business community, people who have family reasons to travel to Cork and indeed people who are involved in tourism.
"Our hearts are broken for those people who have lost loved ones in this incident and we want to send our condolences and very deep sympathy on what is a very tragic and traumatic time for themselves."