Northern Ireland

DUP nominates airport boss for Tourism Ireland position

Graham Keddie Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Graham Keddie recently called for better promotion of Belfast International Airport by Tourism Ireland

The boss of Belfast International Airport is to be appointed to the board of Tourism Ireland - just weeks after he criticised the organisation.

Graham Keddie recently called for better promotion of the airport by Tourism Ireland.

He is one of six new NIrepresentatives nominated to the cross-border body by DUP Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.

Mr Keddie raised issues about Tourism Ireland in a letter to Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.

In a letter to Mr Kenny, written in October, Mr Keddie called for "fairness and equality" in the marketing of Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday, Mr Hamilton told the Northern Ireland Assembly he agreed with Mr Keddie's observations.

Funding threat

Tourism Ireland was set up under the Good Friday Agreement to promote the entire island to potential overseas visitors.

The DUP has been critical of it for some time and previously threatened to look at the funding it receives.

The appointments are likely to be confirmed in the near future.

It is believed they will also include DUP councillor Trevor Clarke, who runs a hotel, and Kathryn Thompson, chief executive of National Museums NI.

She formerly worked at Tourism NI, whose current chief executive, John McGrillen, is also expected to join the board.

Overseas visitor numbers to Northern Ireland have been improving.

They rose by 9% in the 12 months to June to more than 2m with Tourism Ireland seeing itself as deserving at least some of the credit.