Wild Atlantic Way

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin 10:30, 16 April 2024

Last week, a report by Fáilte Ireland concluded that the Wild Atlantic Way has had an economic impact worth €3 billion a year in tourism revenue to communities along the west coast of Ireland, led to the creation of an additional 35,000 jobs and supports 80,000 jobs in total. That is some positive impact for those communities.

The marketing of the Wild Atlantic Way stretches 2,500 km from Kinsale in County Cork up to Donegal, where it stops on the Donegal/Derry border. The Atlantic Ocean does not stop at Donegal, so I have to ask this: why should the Wild Atlantic Way? All of the promotional material that is used to attract visitors in international markets is designed and delivered by Tourism Ireland. The island is marketed as a whole to an international audience, so it makes perfect sense that major regional tourism experiences such as the Wild Atlantic Way should also reflect that by being cross-border in nature. There is a clear rationale for doing so, and it would undoubtedly help the North to develop further the economic potential of its tourism.

Why should we in the North miss such an opportunity as extending the Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal through Derry and the north coast and along the glens of Antrim to Belfast? The case for expanding the Wild Atlantic Way to incorporate the Causeway Coast and glens coastal route is compelling. With the likes of Dunluce Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giant's Causeway, why should the local communities of Ballintoy, Ballycastle and Bushmills in my constituency not benefit from the boost that being marketed as part of the Wild Atlantic Way would bring, increasing visitor numbers and spend in the local economy and benefiting hospitality and tourism businesses, as well as the cafés, restaurants, pubs and tourist attractions in the likes of Cushendall, Cushendun and Glenariff?

The Fáilte Ireland report is a timely reminder of the successful impact that tourism can have on job creation for the local and wider economy, creating opportunities for people and communities to prosper and thrive. Extending the Wild Atlantic Way into the North is one such opportunity.