Ritchie Says New Government Must Cut Tourism VAT And Begin Work On Narrow Water Bridge

As the South Down election heats up, outgoing MP Margaret Ritchie has made a keynote statement about economic development and tourism.

[caption id="attachment_39407" align="alignright" width="390"]Outgoing South Down MP (SDLP) Margaret Ritchie has called on the UK and Irish governments to make progress with  Narrow Water  Bridge. Outgoing South Down MP (SDLP) Margaret Ritchie has called on the UK and Irish governments to make progress with Narrow Water Bridge.[/caption]

SDLP Westminster candidate for South Down Margaret Ritchie has said that an incoming Westminster government must prioritise a cut in VAT for the tourism sector and proceed to renew the Narrow Water Bridge project.

Delivering her speech at a meeting of local business people and representatives of the tourism industry in Newcastle, Ms Ritchie said: “South Down is blessed with some of the most scenic landscape in Ireland, from the Mournes to the spectacular coastline.

“I am excited about the number of visitors who will come to the area for the Irish Open and have the chance to see Ireland’s best golfers play on home turf against the best in the world. This will be a great boost for the local industry and tourism throughout Northern Ireland.

[caption id="attachment_40220" align="alignleft" width="230"]Outgoing South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.  Outgoing South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.[/caption]

“However there needs to be the right infrastructure and tourism policies in place to capitalise on this in the long term. During my time as an MP I was committed to supporting the tourism sector and concentrated on events and festivals such as GI Festival in Kilkeel, Festival of Flight in Newcastle, Circuit of Ireland and St Patrick’s Festival in Downpatrick.

“The UK remains one of only 2 countries in the EU not to offer some sort of tax relief for the tourism industry. Cutting the rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector and the devolution of Airport Passenger Duty should be urgently considered by the incoming government after the election. If re-elected, I will be putting these issues at the forefront and it will be a key platform for the SDLP during any negotiations

“The two key priorities that would instantly lift our tourism industry are a cut in the VAT rate for the sector and the immediate renewal of the Narrow Water Bridge project. The VAT cut would instantly generate growth and bring jobs, especially for our young people. We need only look to the south of Ireland to see the incredible impact of this policy which although initiated as a temporary measure has been retained in successive budgets.

“A bridge at Narrow Water would open up a new economic corridor on this island and would be transformative for the whole regional economy, especially in South Down where there has been an historic lack of investment in such projects. I am of the firm belief that both the Irish Government and the NI Executive working with both Louth and Newry Mourne and Down Council and the Warrenpoint Chamber of Commerce must prioritise funding for this important tourism project.

“Tourism will be at the heart of the economic recovery in the North but we need to create an environment where all our local businesses can benefit. I am committed to making tourism and a reduction on VAT on tourism a priority if I am re-elected in May,”  added Ms Ritchie.