BBC Northern Ireland will be screening a special on NAMA tomorrow, Tuesday evening at 10:35pm on BBC One (Northern Ireland only) – programme details from the BBC are here. There will be a repeat on BBC Two (Northern Ireland) on Wednesday evening at 11.20pm. It’s part of the Spotlight series which has a history of exposing untoward behaviour – who will forget the programme on the wife of the First Minister, Peter Robinson two years ago.
Tomorrow’s 30-minute programme will be presented by the BBC Northern Ireland Economics Editor, Jim Fitzpatrick and will include an interview with the NAMA chairman Frank Daly which will be the first broadcast feature interview with NAMA on Northern Irish matters. There will also be a contribution from the Northern Ireland Minister of Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson who in August 2011 called for a “full” Northern Irish representative on the NAMA board; he is also impatient at perceived delays at NAMA in progressing its asset management phase. Of course it was last month that NAMA lost its first director, Peter Stewart who was widely seen as the Northern Irish representative on the NAMA board. NAMA has a sensitive role in the small Northern Irish economy where there are concerns at the consequences of fire sales and the hoarding of property.
Tomorrow’s programme is also expected to deal with Northern Ireland’s property crash which is amongst the world’s worst and certainly appears to have been worse than the Republic’s. And there will be a visit to a so-called “NAMAtown” in County Down where a cluster of property is understood to be under the control of the Agency.
The programme will be of interest across Ireland – Sammy Wilson has more freedom to express his views than Government ministers on this side of the Border, and we should get a clearer idea of what NAMA will mean down here.
There will be a review of the programme here later in the week.
UPDATE: 28th November 2011. Having at last managed to watch the Spotlight special on NAMA , this is a quick review. The programme itself was as much about the collapse in property prices in Northern Ireland, as about the interference of the “Dublin government’s” NAMA in the small Northern Ireland economy. Four instances were shown to evidence the price declines, a 1-acre site which at the peak in 2006/7 sold for GBP 1.7m but was bought in September 2011 at auction for GBP 94,000; an upmarket 5-bedroom house “Molesworth” in Dromore, County Down which has seen its asking price reduced from GBP 950,000 to less than GBP 500,00 and some NAMA mansions formerly owned by Dromore developer, Sam Thompson of Thompson Developments – one reduced from GBP 1.2m to “less than a third of that” and another originally for sale at GBP 1.35m but now asking GBP 595,000. Yes indeed, residential property prices in Northern Ireland have declined by as much, and probably more, than residential property in the Republic. Michael Moore of Queens University opined that prices may not return to their 2007 peaks in “this lifetime”
Elsewhere negative equity was on display in a case study of a man who now owed GBP 60,000 on his home on top of the existing value of the home, and he had lost his job and now faced losing his home in a couple of months and possibly being pursued for the GBP 60,000 shortfall. The programme claimed that 44,000 households in Northern Ireland (out of a total of 700,000 households approximately) are in negative equity – that compares with 200-400,000 out of 1.7m in the Republic.
And so to NAMA. NAMA chairman Frank Daly gave a brief interview in which he articulated the well-rehearsed line about NAMA not forcing hoarding or fire sales in Northern Ireland and would undertake to engage constructively with local developers and businesses. Specifically Frank rejected a suggestion that NAMA does not engage with developers – he was responding to criticism that NAMA had put the kibosh on a bid by a new business in Dromore to acquire a NAMA property which was part of an overall site.
The Northern Ireland Minister of Finance and Personnel, the sometimes bohemian Sammy Wilson, had two main items on his agenda, a “full representative” on the NAMA board – he’s been calling for this since August 2011 which was two months before “full representative” Peter Stewart resigned from the NAMA board and Peter Stewart was seen to be representing Northern Ireland’s interests ; secondly he wanted to ensure that NAMA did not undermine the local economy in Northern Ireland where property was oftentimes acquired as an ancillary investment by established businesses, businesses which are now threatened by NAMA should NAMA call in the loans.
Interestingly “debt negotiator” Conor Devine made a contribution and there were forecasts of widespread foreclosure activity in the “new year”. Conor raised the issue of family businesses established for decades facing an uncertain future after a foray into property and the subsequent collapse in values.
Overall it was a light low-budget programme which portrayed the extent of the residential property collapse (commercial was largely ignored) and which gave a broad overview of NAMA and brought Sammy Wilson and Frank Daly together in one programme to explore the issues facing the property collapse in the small Northern Ireland economy. Th theme of the needs of the Republi’s taxpayer versus those of our neighbours in the North inevitably arose throughout.There wasn’t much that was new but it brought people up to speed with what NAMA was doing.
The programme will be available on the BBC iPlayer until tomorrow here. If you have a computer based outside the UK you might need convince the BBC that you have a UK computer and you might use a proxy masking service like ExpatShield.