Selling port assets to pay peace dividend?

Gary McDonald, the business editor for the Irish News reports on a plan to hand over the 1,950-acre Harbour Estate which stretches from Holywood to the Belfast Lough’s northern foreshore to the Strategic Investment Board in order to pay for the deal being demanded by Northern Ireland’s political parties as the price for a return to Stormont. However, the Harbour Commissioners who currently oversee a substantial landbank are concerned that such a move could endanger a £140 million capital investment programme at the port. An ad hoc committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly recommended back in July 2001 to give the commissioners greater commercial flexibility, whilst the DRD retained a 40% public share.

The SIB was launched six months after the breakdown of the Assembly, as a means to getting value for money in Northern Ireland for the UK taxpayer.