asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he can make a statement on the recent conversations between his Ministry and representatives from the Government of Eire in regard to civil aviation.
In the course of a recent visit to this country of Mr. Lemass, Eire Minister of Industry and Commerce, the opportunity was taken to engage in preliminary discussions about the arrangements to be made between the two countries for the operation of our respective air services. It was agreed that Aer Lingus Teoranta should operate services between Eire and this country, and that reciprocal rights should be enjoyed by United Kingdom airlines. The use of the Shannon airport for transatlantic services of United Kingdom airlines was also discussed and it was agreed that the existing temporary permit to British Overseas Airways Corporation authorising the use of Foynes and Rineanna should be renewed, pending the conclusion of a long-term agreement.
Can my hon. Friend say whether any progress has been made towards providing a transatlantic airport in Northern Ireland?
The question of a transatlantic airport in Northern Ireland has been considered, but such an airport as an alternative to Rineanna would involve operational difficulties and would place United Kingdom airlines at a disadvantage with the transatlantic operators of other countries using Rineanna. An airport of inter-continental standards will however be necessary in Northern Ireland in order to provide air connections between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom and Continental countries.