Belfast has the population — its conurbation is three times bigger than Cork. It has the airports, the motorways, the electricity grids and now the income levels. It is understandable that local politicians from the west are complaining about the Aer Lingus move. They are the ones under threat, not from Aer Lingus and its decision, but from the long-term economic implication of the Belfast Agreement.
It’s a difficult issue for Sinn Fein, who seem to have plumped for painting out the northern part of the equation, and making it an issue for the Republic’s government:
Government inaction since Aer Lingus announced its decision to withdraw its Shannon to Heathrow route is astonishing, both from a political and economic perspective. The Taoiseach’s silence, whilst his Ministers and back benchers squabble amongst themselves, is truly remarkable.
During last years negotiation on the privatisation of Aer Lingus the government made much of a commitment to safeguard the national strategic interest by holding on to a 25.1% share hold in the company. Where is that commitment now when the tourism and commercial interests for the entire mid western region are under threat?
The official silence from the Northern Ireland Executive is duly noted.