“Without their expertise tourism will not grow significantly.”

It’s not a smoking gun. But the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon reveals that in June 2005 the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr – now a junior minister in the NI Executive – together with fellow DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, wrote a lengthy joint letter to then-NI Secretary Peter Hain arguing that tourism at the Giant’s Causeway was “not being marketed or exploited to its full potential” and that “We believe that tourism can only succeed where the experts are involved and that most certainly includes the private sector. Without their expertise tourism will not grow significantly.” As far as I’m aware, at that time, June 2005, as now, there was only one private developer in the frame. Which, while still no smoking gun, does call into question the value of Environment Minister Arlene Foster’s denials that anyone had lobbied her on Seymour Sweeney’s behalf.And it’s worth remembering that in April this year there was an expectation that Sweeney’s planning application would be declined.

The Belfast Telegraph report also says that, in addition to co-signing a press statement from the DUP Leader Ian Paisley in February 2005 dismissing the Government-led plans for a centre as “fool’s gold”

The letter to Mr Hain further claimed that alternative Government plans for a new Causeway building were “a time marking exercise”.

And they said the blueprint being followed in this process was “inadequate and constrictive” and would result in a centre that would be “too small to meet tourist needs”.

That would be the blueprint designed in accordance with the UNESCO’s 2003 report noted here – which was restated earlier this week by the report’s author.

Meanwhile, in the Assembly on Monday, the NI Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Industry, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, made the case for his decision to put the publicly funded project on hold.

First, as I understand it, that developer has put forward a proposal on his own land, so he is as entitled as anybody to submit a planning application. Secondly, as far as the use of public money is concerned, I have always made it clear that the Government, just as was the case with the Titanic Quarter signature project, should be involved only to the extent that there has been market failure. Therefore, I say openly and clearly that I would need a lot of convincing that any public money should be invested where no market failure has occurred.

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  • Bemused

    Drip…drip…..drip….drip…..drip….

  • interested

    If you were to look up ‘non story’ in the dictionary I think you’d find a link to this story.

  • Pete Baker

    Some information for those actually interested in the facts.

    For a start, I couldn’t have been clearer in identfying that this is not a smoking gun.

    But I also hold to the Baconian idea of creating an archival history.

    I’ve also highlighted, in the original post, the DUP’s argument that government should only intervene in such a project when the market fails. A perfectly plausible small-government argument to explain why they would support a private development for the Causeway Visitors’ Centre.

    The problem for the DUP however, given their obvious familiarity, is that the only private development currently proposed is Seymour Sweeney’s.

    Even that, in itself, isn’t necessarily an insurmountable problem..

    Apart from the fact that UNESCO seem to have formed the view that that particular private development would interfere with the World Heritage Status of the Giants’ Causeway.

    And that, in its current form, it appears to run foul of previous decisions by government about the publicly funded project for a Causeway Visitors’ Centre.

  • Hehe

    [Play the ball! – edited moderator]

  • Nevin

    Well observed, Bemused, the Ministers appear to be getting a little anxious; they’re rolling back from the Portbraddon fault.

    Interested, the Tele has been much more impressive than the insipid BBC; Slugger O’Toole still appears to be ahead of the field though Mick’s elevation to the House of Cards may have been scuppered.

  • The Raven

    “We believe that tourism can only succeed where the experts are involved and that most certainly includes the private sector”

    I’m sorry, I hope we’re not alluding that Mr Sweeney is an expert? Seymour is good for only two things. Ripping the heart out of existing communities and renting local architecture of note asunder.

    Seymour is the very last person we should be turning to for a developer’s brief. “Suuure I’ll build you a visitor’s centre. Oh and over here we’ll stick some second homes. Oh and over there too. Oh and some at the back too. And I think a hotel will look lovely where those silly looking stones are”.

    Anyone living up here will know Mr Sweeney’s tactics very well.