Northern Ireland

Tourism Ireland boss rejects Paisley claims

Niall Gibbons Image copyright NI Affairs Committee
Image caption Niall Gibbons was giving evidence to the House of Commons NI Affairs Committee

The chief executive of Tourism Ireland has rejected claims from DUP MP Ian Paisley that the cross-border body favours the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking at the House of Commons NI Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Niall Gibbons said, "We make sure that we give a lot of prominence to NI".

He fielded questions about support for Belfast International Airport.

"There's very much a level playing field, so I don't accept the criticism at all," Mr Gibbons said.

Mr Paisley had referred to evidence given to the committee by Uel Hoey, the airport's business development director.

The MP said Mr Hoey had criticised Tourism Ireland for its lack of support in promoting Belfast International as a hub.

Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland was "really keen to support routes into Northern Ireland" and gave extra funding into Northern Ireland for promotional activities.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has been conducting an inquiry into tourism in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at an inquiry session last month, Mr Paisley called for "an aggressive marketing strategy" in Dublin to attract Irish-American tourists to Northern Ireland and "put it right back in their face".

Tourism Ireland was established as one of the "six areas of co-operation" under the framework of the Good Friday Agreement, and is responsible for promoting the island of Ireland to Great Britain and at an international level and supporting Northern Ireland to realise its tourism potential.

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