No stone being left unturned in Causeway debate…

THE debate over the DUP’s plan to hand the Giant’s Causeway tourist centre to one of its members has continued unabated since yesterday, with some new developments. Aside from membership of the DUP, there are several links between the developer, Seymour Sweeney, and the party. The Tele reports how “Mr Sweeney sold a north Antrim property some years ago to DUP politician Ian Paisley Jnr”, now a junior Stormont minister, who “is currently listed as a member of the businessman’s management company for the cottage development site” at Bushmills. On a BBC interview, Paisley Jr would only say “I know of him, yes” and described him as a mere “constituent” despite this relationship, which even Sweeney was more open about in his statement (below the fold). The Assembly debated the issue yesterday, and it’s already been pointed out that Sweeney signed the election nomination papers for DUP candidate, loyalist protester and convicted fraudster David McAllister. The National Trust (which owns the causeway stones) revealed that plans for a publicly-funded tourist centre were advanced, yet the DUP ministers appear to have been avoiding the Trust since the Assembly was re-established – now they know why. Moyle Council is to debate the issue this week, but last night neighbouring Coleraine voted unanimously to keep the proposed visitor’s centre at the Giant’s Causeway in public hands. The first signs of a DUP split emerged, with DUP Mayor Maurice Bradley seconding the SDLP motion and eight DUP members supporting it.Sweeney’s statement from yesterday:

Mr Seymour Sweeney, managing director, Seaport (NI) Ltd, can confirm that he is a member of the DUP and like all members pays his annual subscription at the usual rates.

Neither he nor any of his companies have now, or ever, been a donor to the party. Mr Sweeney has no other links to the DUP either personally or through family connections.

He can confirm that he did sign council nomination papers for Cllr David McAllister but did so in the same way that he would do if asked to write a testimonial for anyone applying for a job which he considered them qualified to do well.

He can confirm that many years ago at one of Seaport’s developments, namely Ballyallaght Farmyard Cottages outside Bushmills, a property was purchased by Ian Paisley jnr in the normal way through sales agents and solicitors.

Ian Paisley jnr paid the full market sales price which was more expensive than the house neighbouring his property by virtue of the fact that the house he bought was slightly larger.

As a North Antrim-based development company whose local MP comes from the DUP, Mr Sweeney regards it as normal practice to consult and discuss matters with not only this party but all political parties with an interest in the area, which he has done throughout the years, particularly since Mr Sweeney’s activities not only include property development but also the tourism hospitality industry where he owns Sweeney’s Wine Bar and Glenville Self- Catering Cottages in Portballintrae, the Nook at the Giant’s Causeway, is the former owner of the Bayview hotel in Portballintrae, and in 2005 saved from liquidation the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway.

For the avoidance of any doubt, Mr Sweeney has neither met nor spoken to ministers Foster or Dodds on this or any other issue. He is appalled as a property developer at this attempt to besmirch his company and activities when all he has ever sought to do, evidenced by his many and several developments in north Antrim, is provide top-class tourist facilities on the one hand and construct residential dwellings of the highest standard on the other.