THE taxpayer has paid an "outlandish" €11m towards Derry airport in the past year even though the government has no idea how many passengers from the Republic use the airport.

Transport minister Noel Dempsey told the Dáil last week that his department has spent €11m on a runway safety project since the beginning of 2008.

Donegal TD Joe McHugh, Fine Gael's spokesman on North-South co-operation, has claimed it is "outlandish" that the government did not carry out a cost-benefit analysis and condemned Dempsey's "fecklessness".

"I strongly support the principle of North-South co-operation," McHugh told the Sunday Tribune. "I often fly to and from City of Derry airport but I strongly object to the investment of €11m of taxpayers' money when the Department of Transport has not performed any cost-benefit analysis.

"Minister Dempsey informed me that he does not hold any information about the numbers of ROI citizens and visitors using the airport... His statement is outlandish. How can money be spent without cost-benefit analysis?"

McHugh has written to the North's regional development minister, Conor Murphy, and to airlines Aer Arann and Loganair for Derry airport passenger information.

The issue of taxpayers funding the airport was also contained in the An Bord Snip Nua report. The Department of Transport's allocation for aviation is €20m this year which is primarily spent in support of regional airports.