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Potential extension of Wild Atlantic Way into Northern Ireland being considered



The potential extension of the Wild Atlantic Way into Northern Ireland is being considered to attract more tourists to the region.

The scenic route currently extends 1,600 miles from Kinsale in Co Cork, along the west coast of Ireland taking in the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare, to the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal.

Across the border in Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route starts in Derry and travels around the coastline to Belfast.

In a speech to a Tourism NI conference in Belfast on Tuesday, Stormont Economy Minister Conor Murphy also mooted linking up the Hidden Heartlands in the Republic with Co Fermanagh, as well as Downpatrick and Armagh with Ireland’s Ancient East.

The Giant’s Causeway on the Co Antrim coastline which forms part of the Causeway Coastal Route (PA)

Mr Murphy described tourism as a success story of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and pledged to support its further development.

He said Tourism Ireland’s marketing of the island overseas is “critical” to further growth, and said that while his department’s funding to the body had “fallen behind” in recent years, it will be “properly funded” this year.

Mr Murphy said that around 70% of overseas holidaymakers who come to Northern Ireland travel from the Republic of Ireland.

There are currently no transatlantic routes which fly into any of Northern Ireland’s airports.

He said in a bid to increase this flow of travellers, discussions are currently under way on extending some of the Republic’s tourism brands into Northern Ireland.

“This will include consideration of rolling the Wild Atlantic Way into the Causeway Coastal Route, the Hidden Heartlands into Fermanagh, and places such as Downpatrick and Armagh in Ireland’s Ancient East,” he said.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Conor Murphy at Parliament Buildings (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Murphy also said he met officials on Monday to discuss new research on strengthening air connectivity.

“I will also work with my colleague, Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald, to continue to make the case to the British government for tourism and hospitality to harmonise the north’s rate of VAT with the south. This will level the playing field across the island,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy warned huge growth potential in tourism is currently threatened by the British government’s Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme.

“Under this scheme international visitors who want to travel to the north from the south will have to apply for, and pay for, permission to travel,” he said.

“The hassle and cost of this will mean many visitors will simply not travel north.

“This would have a devastating impact and so I will lobby the British government to abandon this policy.”

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