Last summer the Executive – a DUP First Minister and Economy Minister and a Sinn Féin deputy First Minister and Finance Minister – announced that it was giving £9 million of your and my money to an American airline to continue to operate the profitable Belfast-Newark route.
As highlighted on these pages at the time, this was a deeply shocking move. Essentially it amounted to using your and my rates to add to the profit of a foreign airline.
It emerged subsequently that the Executive had no business case for this spending, that it was operating contrary to Civil Service advice, and indeed that value for money could not be demonstrated. This is grotesque incompetence, even before it turned out that it was also illegal and the route duly closed anyway last month.
One of the many reasons there was no value for money was that it did not once occur to the DUP or Sinn Féin Ministers that, even if you acccept a Belfast-US air link is essential, there were other airlines available. The only reason for continuing with the particular airline they wished to pay was that it had been operating the route.
Note that the route was profitable by the airline’s own admission. Its issue was that, by moving planes from the Belfast route to another route, perhaps within North America, it would be even more profitable for it. Quite how DUP and Sinn Féin Ministers became experts in international air routes to assess on their own that the compensatory cost would be £9 million is unknown…
Even basic common sense would tell you that, if you needed a particular route to be maintained, what you would in fact do is tender for an airline to operate the route.
And so it turns out that at least one other airline is interested in operating the route. So why on earth did the DUP and Sinn Féin top Ministers try to allocate £9 million while never bothering to check?
One volunteer blogger, paid nothing and with no advisers, could work out that allocation of £9 million of your and my money was dubious. Both the DUP and Sinn Féin (with their big salaries and SpAds) are guilty, on this issue alone, of gross and costly incompetence.