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Minister's head in the clouds on US air route

Published 30/11/2016

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor
Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

In your article, "Minister defends bailout plan for doomed US air route" (News, November 25), you highlight that Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, answered my question about what evidence exists to show that a direct transatlantic air route from Northern Ireland has been important for Northern Ireland's economy. I have to contest this claim.

The minister's reply was anything but an answer. It was simply a repetition of his original claim that the air route was important for Northern Ireland's economy.

This does not qualify as evidence.

I asked the minister to show the people of Northern Ireland - whose money the minister was using for this bailout - hard facts to back up his claim that this was a good use of money.

Once again, he failed to do so and, in fact, explicitly stated that he had not conducted a robust business case for this spending.

This is not simply a case of the minister failing to tick a box. Department of Finance guidelines explicitly state that "appraisal is not optional; it is an essential part of good financial management and it is vital to decision-making and accountability. Its principles must be applied, with proportionate effort, to all spending decisions, including small expenditures."

Furthermore, he says the reason for this is the "tight timescales required by United Airlines". This is an outrageous case of the tail wagging the dog.

It is clear that with this Executive, multinational businesses are in control, not elected representatives.

I now want to know what conversations the Ministers of the Economy and Finance had over this and whether there was an agreement that these rules - designed to ensure that the public's interest was forefront in the minds of decision-makers - were relaxed, and, if not, what the Minister of Finance plans to do about this breach of the rules?

STEVEN AGNEW MLA

Leader, Green Party in N.Ireland

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