Finance Minister Sammy Wilson smiling all the way to business class

IT IS not hard to know who holds the purse strings in the Stormont Executive – and is it not the Alliance Party.

On a flight over to London this morning to attend business, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson  had one of the best seats on the plane.

And he made sure he wasn’t sitting in steerage either!

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was also sitting today to from Belfast City Airport Watch and business interests as part of its inquiry into an air transport strategy for Northern Ireland on Wednesday 24 October.

And he was quickly spotted by former BBC NI social affairs reporter Liz Fawcett who was also on the same flight.

She is the spokesperson for Belfast City Airport Watch who was giving evidence this afternoon to the committee who are investigating Northern Ireland’s airport strategy.

Liz Fawcett spotted ‘Wee Sammy’ in business class

Liz tweeted: “Interesting to see Finance Minster in Business Class this AM while his DEL Ministerial colleague (Stephen Farry) sat behind him in Economy with us plebs!”

Liz was before the committee from 2.30pm while John Rooney of the Federation of Small Business was appearing at 3pm along with Glynn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Indepdent Retail Trade Association.

The Committee is inquiring into:

  • the implications of current air links for Northern Ireland, specifically the  economy
  • regional and international connectivity
  • the  lack of public transport links to, and between, Belfast International, Belfast City and City of Derry airports
  • the implications for Northern Ireland of the Civil Aviation Bill
  • the implications of the proposed takeover of bmi by IAG
  • tax policy

DEL Minister Stephen Farry sitting with the ‘plebs’

Information released by the NI Chamber of Commerce and BAA on 14 February 2012 stated that:

  • One in ten jobs in Northern Ireland depend on foreign investment, and half of those companies can only reach their home market through a hub airport
  • Aviation supports £1bn of exports from Northern Ireland
  • Foreign tourists spend £195m a year in Northern Ireland and account for 360,000 visits – 150,000 of whom arrive by air
  • Northern Ireland benefits directly from having a global hub in Britain, with Heathrow directly supporting 1,000 tourism jobs and 900 airport jobs in Northern Ireland

The Committee has previously heard oral evidence from representatives of Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport, City of Derry Airport, CBI Northern Ireland, ABTA, Unite, the Consumer Council for NI, BALPA, the Department for Transport, the UK Border Agency, the Northern Ireland Executive, the International Airlines Group, Ryanair and easyJet.

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