Belfast Harbour Up For Sale…

After some skirting around the issue consideration, and after having the idea of selling slammed as ‘shortsighted’ by the head of the Northern Ireland Science Park, it now appears today that Belfast Harbour Estate will be sold for £500m. The money will go to the Executive, presumably to fund the cut to NI’s corporation tax.

You may remember yesterday I was having a bit of a rant about Belfast City Council’s decision to spend £105m on refurbishing / redeveloping leisure centres across the city, even though they have already handed the leisure centres over to private operator GLL to run and there is every sign that this will involve price hikes for leisure centre users. Similar plans may be afoot at the Waterfront Hall, which is being redeveloped at a cost of £30m but which Belfast City Council is also considering “Outsourcing to an established private sector operator“.

Then this morning BBC NI were reporting on Belfast City Council’s inability to confirm any major international events in the city for the 2016-2021 period, due to a lack of financing to the tune of apprx £2.66m. So is that it, everything is just cancelled then? Apparently not, since BCC are considering the option of “using rates to meet the funding requirements, stating that committee members may “need to consider such funding as part of the rate-setting process”.”

Waterfront extension, Leisure Centre refurb and ambitious international events calendar left you broke? Help yourself to the rates money, sure! Looking to plug that £500m in the budget left by the proposed cut to the NI corporation tax? Sell the Belfast Harbour Estate!

If Dr Apsley’s summation “To sell a profitable asset and one which is so critical for the Northern Ireland economy for what cannot be more than two years of the cost of corporation tax sounds a bit short-sighted” doesn’t convince you perhaps consider if we, the people, or at least our elected representatives auction Belfast Harbour off, we have no say in who is running it, what type of cargo is passing through it, and how it is all monitored.


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  • Zeno1

    “The money will go to the Executive, presumably to fund the cut to NI’s corporation tax.”

    They know they can’t sell it every year, right?

  • Maybe it’s a bit like the brand spanking new £2bn in “increased spending power” which is made up of loans…that we will probably never pay back / be able to pay back?

  • mickfealty

    Well take your pick. It might go to that (block grant is going to be reduced from 2017), fines already accrued for foot-dragging on Welfare reform, or it might just go to top up the current account.

    There’s every chance it will already be spent by the time Corpo Tax comes in.

  • dodrade99

    Welfare cuts, tax cuts for wealthy businesses and privatisation, Sinn Fein’s fight against the austerity agenda is about as successful as the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  • Framer

    Of one thing you can be sure, the official valuation will be ludicrously small and the foreign buyer will asset strip the Harbour within months and treble their money.

  • chrisjones2

    we have no say in who is running it, what type of cargo is passing through it, and how it is all monitored

    I admire the chutzpah but why should you?

  • chrisjones2

    Then we can sack the politicians

  • Zeno1

    No, I think this is a bit like WONGA but without the extortionate interest. They will take it out of the Block Grant.

  • Zeno1

    If we could sack them they would have been gone long ago. It’s like having Lemmings manage a Hedge Fund.

  • I don’t think I’ve every been described as having chutzpah before, so thanks for that!

    Not to sound too Season 2 of The Wire, but a harbour / port isn’t just a big piece of real estate. A lot of stuff moves through ports around the world, whether it’s drugs or human trafficking. We’re already seeing a rise in the latter, unfortunately

    I’d like to be fairly sure a private operator was policing this rigorously. Would they be using a private security firm? Or PSNI? If they are using / working with PSNI, should they be footing the bill for contracting a public police service?

    Basically the point I’m making is that in addition to the short sighted nature of this decision, it isn’t a golf course or huge hotel development getting handed over to a private operator – it’s a port, and that comes with big security / trafficking considerations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Zeno1, did Chrisjones2 really, really say that? I was begining to think that the Marc de Champagne shot I had after lunch was as strong as I remembered it when pretty much only French working men used to drink the stuff back in the seventies!

    Even the mighty HMG big guns can’t seem to sack them……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m fully expecting to be sold on along with some of my more valuable fellow citizens, W[r]ite Noise, when Stormont is compelled to legalise slavery in order to repay these “loans.”

    Oh I forgot, like everyone else, I’m already “owned” by the bank who committed funds for my morage! Simply a less overt form of ownership.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    So, IF I have this right:

    We’re going to sell a prize asset for a song to try (and fail) to pay for a corporation tax deficit, the same prize asset that stands to gain the most from any (potential) benefits that a corporation tax reduction may bring (if any)?

    It sounded stupid in my head and still sounds stupid now that I’ve written it down.
    Why don’t they just sell it for 3 magic beans and be done with it?

    My late uncle once exclaimed of the Westminster government that ” a pile a men drunk in the pub could run the country better!”

    After watching a documentary about the significant role of pubs in ‘the city’ (of London)’s financial district he revised this to “the country IS run by a pile of men drunk in the pub!”

    Were he alive now I could imagine him exclaiming of the relatively ‘dry’ Stormont outfit “IF ONLY the country were run by a pile of men drunk in the pub!”…

  • Zeno1

    “The Harbour Estate is home to many well-known Northern Ireland businesses, such as George Best Belfast City Airport, Harland & Wolff, Bombardier, the Odyssey, the Northern Ireland Science Park, Titanic Quarter and Titanic Belfast. Over 700 firms employing around 21,000 people are located within the estate.
    The area was valued three years ago at £850m,” Belfast Telegraph.

    It really shouldn’t be allowed, yet if they decide to do it ,there is nothing we can do to stop them. Is that how democracy is supposed to work?

  • Ian James Parsley

    To be fair, private sector wages are far lower than public.

    Care to guess the number of civil servants below living wage?!

    However, your point still stands.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Which, Zeno1, is why I use the ther “our masters’ when I refer to these “representatives”. Looking up from the position of voter, we are encouraged to think that those we elect will applyy their mandate in our favour. From the assembly benches the view is that we voters have authorised “the elect” to act freely as they think best. Other posters on Slugger with aspirations to power have said as much when I’ve challenged them about what they see as acting not for their voters but “in the bset interests of the economy”, etc, etc. The notion that anyone who earns less that a few millions a year can actually have any serious say with these people is one of those fairy stories that is intended to distract innocents from the dirty reality of how “democracy” actually functions in practice.

    “It really shouldn’t be allowed,” I entirely agree, but what can any of us do to stop it?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, AG, ‘My late uncle once exclaimed of the Westminster government that ” a pile a men drunk in the pub could run the country better!”‘

    I thought that was what Westminster actually was!

  • Zeno1

    We can’t do anything while people continue to fall for the idea that we have a democracy. They could sell the Harbour Estate for 50p and we still wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

  • I assumed that a private police force would be the consequence of selling the Belfast Harbour Estate, but it’s interesting (and not a little disconcerting) to realise that it is already the case

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Does anyone know Jim Allister’s stance on the matter?

    Perhaps he could be persuaded to hold the relevant peeps to account?