Lough Neagh Tourism

Oral Answers to Questions — Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 30 September 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP 2:30, 30 September 2002

1. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to give an update on his policy to develop and promote Lough Neagh as a major tourist attraction.

(AQO 212/02)

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

It is fully recognised that the Lough Neagh wetlands, as an activity destination, are a greatly underutilised resource. The Lough Neagh management strategy, launched in June 2002, provides the necessary framework for the wise use of the resource, including its development for tourism. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, is committed to working with relevant partners to ensure its implementation.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

Does the Minister agree that Lough Neagh has the potential to be a major tourist attraction, contrary to what is suggested by the low number of visitors there this summer? Can he ensure that when the area is developed, its environmental assets will be conserved?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

With regard to the Member’s last point, the conservation of the area must, of course, be a guiding principle in how it is developed, because no one wants to see the area ruined. I was in the area on Saturday evening at the opening of an equestrian centre. Given the reports that the Department has received, and the potential that clearly exists, the area is undoubtedly underutilised. Water sports-related activities, wildlife-related activities and equestrian activities have the potential to promote the lough as a significant destination.

At present, few people visit the area. Those visitors tend to come on day trips. The predominant use of the area is for informal recreation, as one would expect. The area has tremendous potential. Six local authority areas border the lough, and I believe that through working with them, and with the Lough Neagh Partnership, which is a new company limited by guarantee, the Department will be able to develop and implement projects, attract investment and market the area in a strategic manner. Although it is not envisaged that the Lough Neagh Partnership will carry out the statutory obligations of any agency, it will be well placed to manage strategic projects.

Photo of Mr Gardiner Kane Mr Gardiner Kane DUP

Members know that Lough Neagh has valuable tourist attractions. Can the Minister outline the Department’s policy for the development and promotion of established tourist attractions, such as the Giant’s Causeway and the Glens of Antrim?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

I have no doubt that the Member is well skilled. If he sits in the Chamber until the end of Question Time, he may find that there is a question coming up on that particular subject. With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will decline to fall into that trap at this stage.