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Heathrow expansion 'right decision' for Northern Ireland

Ann McGregor

The green light for an £18bn third runway at Heathrow will be a big boost to Northern Ireland's economy and could see new connections from airports here, it's been claimed.

Downing Street hailed the long-awaited decision as "historic". It's been heralded as a "good result" which will "boost exports, attract inward investment and bring in more tourists" for Northern Ireland.

The go-ahead was given by Prime Minister Theresa May. Plans to expand an existing runway at Heathrow or build a second runway at Gatwick were rejected.

EasyJet has already said it would expand services between Heathrow and Belfast if the runway got the go-ahead.

There had been concerns that a lack of expansion would mean domestic flights, such as Belfast, could be squeezed out of the hub.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said an expanded Heathrow "will not only see routes from Belfast City potentially increased" but see new flights from Belfast International and City of Derry Airport.

Angela McGowan, who has just taken over as CBI director in Northern Ireland, said "it's what the business community needs".

"Being connected is important for Northern Ireland ... London is important and Dublin is important. The more connectivity we have with both those capital cities, the better it is for everybody in Northern Ireland. The more international flights from Heathrow, the better, and the more connections from Northern to the UK, the better," she said.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the NI Independent Retail Trade Association, said it is the "right decision for Northern Ireland and the UK economy".

And an expanded Heathrow will "herald a new era of connectivity for Northern Ireland", according to Ann McGregor, chief executive of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It's claimed the addition will "boost exports, attract inward investment and bring more tourists", said DUP MP Ian Paisley.

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan said: "It is vital that we continue to build our airport capacity in the United Kingdom to encourage investment and keep the economy growing."

Federation of Small Business policy chairman for Northern Ireland Wilfred Mitchell said: "It promises greater regional connectivity and new routes to overseas destinations, boosting exports and connecting local small businesses to new markets."

But Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, whose aircraft fly into Gatwick and Stansted, dismissed the Heathrow green light as a "piecemeal approach".

And Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said "We do not believe this is the right answer".

The Department for Transport (DfT) claimed that the new runway will bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61bn.

Heathrow said it is ready to deliver a third runway that is "fair, affordable and secures the benefits of expansion for the whole of the UK".

Meanwhile, Tory MP Zac Goldsmith is to "honour his pledge" to resign and force a by-election in protest at the Heathrow Airport expansion decision.

Belfast Telegraph