Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, stepped in for Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, who was busy conducting departmental business overseas during today’s Question Time. Trevor Lunn MLA enquired about the prospect of securing direct air routes to large EU trading partners such as Brussells, Berlin and Vienna after the announcement of new routes to Iceland and Lithuania. Mr Hamilton assured that the “ETI Minister is committed to improving Northern Ireland's air connectivity” and “has already met the new managing director of Belfast International Airport and has also met a number of airlines to explore opportunities for improving our air access position”. However, it’s not possible to discuss and future plans as “discussions about specific routes and airlines are of a commercially sensitive and confidential nature”.
Mr Hamilton also discussed the Enterprise Minister’s meeting with representatives of Down District Council to discuss new public and private sector employment opportunities across Down district. He assured that “the Minister and her officials are doing all they can to promote new job opportunities in the area.” In the last financial year Invest Northern Ireland offered almost £2.2m in funding to companies in the Down District Council area – an investment that will go to promoting 255 new jobs in the area.
During the topical question period, the Minister also answered Members’ queries regarding cancer drug research, DETI plans for economic recovery, electricity generating capacity and steps to address underemployment.