The council has been unable to give assurances that the Festival of Flight will definitely return to Newcastle next year. On Monday night, the local authority rubberstamped its tourism events programme for the forthcoming year – it does not include the annual aerial extravaganza – and it was also confirmed that a firm commitment could not be given at this stage for its return in summer 2023. Rowallane DUP councillor Kathryn Owen voiced her disappointment that the festival will not be going ahead in 2022, and said that its impact on businesses and aviation enthusiasts went beyond Newcastle. She then sought an assurance that the popular crowd-puller would be “put into the events calendar for next year”. However, deputy chief executive Dorinnia Carville responded that it would be “premature” to determine the events programme for 2023/24 ahead of it being fully costed. She added that Cllr Owen’s comments could be taken on board for when the programme is being considered by the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) Committee next year. Cllr Owen stated that it was her understanding that “it was always the same amount of money that was earmarked for each DEA”, to which Ms Carville interjected that this was “subject to council approval” and that “we have to go through the rates process each year and then look at the budgets thereafter”. The local representative then asked: “Is there no way to actually give a firm commitment to the public that this will go ahead next year?” Ms Carville replied: “I would suggest it is premature at this stage, because we have to look at all the events in the round and take them all through the committee for full consideration.” Slieve Gullion UUP councillor David Taylor said that he had attended the Festival of Flight “nearly every year it has been hosted in Newcastle, and I don’t think there should even be a query about the cost of it”. Apologising for interrupting, council chair Cathy Mason highlighted that the original events programme decision had been made in closed session by the ERT Committee and that any further discussion would have to be in similar circumstances, and this was agreed. Coming out of closed session, Cllr Mason confirmed that the council had adopted a proposal by Cllr Owen, seconded by Cllr Taylor, that it “work towards putting the Festival of Flight into the events programme for 2023/24, subject to committee approval”. Earlier in the meeting, the council endorsed a proposal by Mournes councillor Glyn Hanna that representatives within the DEA be consulted in relation to any event that may replace the Festival of Flight this year before any decision is made. The DUP representative said that “there is a substantial amount of money there, and I think the Mournes councillors should have a massive say in this”. His proposal, seconded by Mournes Sinn Féin councillor Leeanne McEvoy, was unanimously supported.