“We had no idea this was coming..”

The Irish Times’ Dan Keenan, naturally enough, was at the Belfast launch of Deaglan de Bréadún’s book ‘The Far Side of Revenge’ and he managed to get NI Executive Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson’s response to the Prime Minister’s ‘pressie’. I’ve put that quote below the fold because, more importantly, the NI Department of Finance also issued a statement to the Irish Times. [subs req]

A statement issued by Peter Robinson’s finance department said: “The executive has already set an extremely ambitious target to generate and retain £1.1 billion of asset disposals. Delivering this £1.1 billion figure is going to be a considerable challenge for the executive – more so in today’s environment of depreciating land and property values.

“Moving the limit from £1.1 billion to £2.2 billion is a quantum increase that challenges the boundaries of reasonable expectations. Thus this should not be perceived as a £1 billion cash injection into Northern Ireland.”

More from the Irish Times report

The British prime minister’s announcement, made at the US-Northern Ireland invest conference in Belfast on Thursday, took Executive Ministers by surprise, reliable Stormont sources said yesterday. “We had no idea this was coming,” said one.

Asked about the feasibility of selling off £2.2 billion in assets at a time of market uncertainty and using the proceeds for infrastructure projects, another said Mr Brown’s offer was not realistic.

Mr Donaldson said the DUP would take the prime minister’s offer at face value and seek an extension if needed.

“In the current climate we have to be realistic in our expectations” he said.

“It may well be difficult to dispose of so many assets in a depressed market. We will do our best with this but if there is a question of not meeting the three-year timeframe because it’s not prudent to dispose of some of the assets in a depressed market, then we will look to the [British] government to extend the period.”

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  • wild turkey

    PB

    A post a 9pm!… and this was shaping up to be a meandering post free day on slugger. an historic day perhaps.

    re Pm Browns record of asset disposals, not particularly impressive. Under his chancellorship didn’t the BoE sell off a shitload of gold at rock bottom prices , umm, right before the market skyrocketed.

    anyway, whats on the auction block and more importantly in revenue terms, is the money raised a total net gain to norn ironland or will it be offset against a reduced Barrett formula (the joker in the pack) subvention?

    a more cogent analysis forthcoming(perhaps) after the bloody mary shift tomorrow lunchtime.

  • Dewi

    It took half hour to listen to Mick’s interview – and it’s taken me hours to get back up to date. You need quotas!!!

  • McGrath

    The PM is trying to sell us what is already ours, at rock bottom prices. This is akin to telling us if we re-mortgage our houses, there will be cash avalible to the ecomony.

    Liquidating an NI asset, should be the decison of NI, not the PM.

    There is absolutly nothing on offer here, except spin.

  • cynic

    “Liquidating an NI asset should be the decision of NI, not the PM.”

    It is, but if they get money from it the cash belongs to the Tresury, not to the NI government. Finance (in the broad sense) will remain a ‘reserved matter’ under control of the Treasury, just like taxation. In effect, financially we have a County Council at Stormont that can spend within tight overall limits set in London.

    Like it or not that’s the agreed political settlement. Brown’s prezzie was a gimmick – probably something thought up by a SpAd on the flight over – so they could look generous in front of the Americans who wouldnt understand that, in context, it would be impossible to realise.

    Perfidious Albion?

  • Rory

    Well at least after a long series of sell-outs by all parties we can now enjoy the novelty of a sell-off for a change.

  • The Raven

    The words “family” and “silver” spring to mind. This is one to be opposed.

  • cynic

    Raven

    In principle, I disagree. Better to put the capital to work creating more prosperity than tied up in often useless or under-used assets. But it needs to be done well and intelligently. Any bets on this lot and the NI Civil Service managing that and avoiding the mistakes made in England?

    Alan

  • The Raven

    Cynic, I am led to believe that this is one aspect of the public sector here that pays for itself, with a pre-tax profit last year of around £18m.

    I stand to be corrected if I have picked this up wrong.