“An aggressive strategy by the Republic’s assets recovery agency in Northern Ireland could have a detrimental effect on North-South relations, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has warned.” Belfast Telegraph report today
There is still much head-scratching going on at the political support which developer Alistair Kennedy has received from some local politicians in Northern Ireland after his hotel, the Ramada Portrush was placed in administration at the behest of NAMA last Thursday evening. Although NAMA is not commenting on this specific case, it has been vocal in the past with its claims that foreclosure is a last resort, and of course in this case, the Portrush Ramada continues to trade and there is no talk of staff losses or closure of facilities – indeed, if it is as profitable as claimed by Alistair Kennedy, making GBP 400,000 on turnover of GBP 2.2m, then there shouldn’t be any reason why it shouldn’t continue to thrive.
But the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, Ian Paisley junior and today, Minister for Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson have all expressed grave misgivings about the foreclosure. Not a dickey bird seemingly from the other main parties in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP nor Alliance. Ian Paisley junior and senior have had well-documented links to another Northern Ireland developer, but there hasn’t hitherto been any public association between Messrs Paisley and Alistair Kennedy.
Here’s a piccy from the launch in 2011 of the NW200, a road motorcycle race held every May in county Antrim and county (London)Derry. It seemingly shows the then 85-year old Ian Paisley senior along with what used to be called a dollybird and a nice Ducati. The picture itself is copyrighted and is available for sale here – the screengrab of the Pacemaker website is used here for comment and criticism. Ian Paisley junior is known to be a motorcycling fan and is a member of the British Motorcycle Federation and says this of the NW200 on his own website
“This is the largest out door sporting/tourist event in Northern Ireland. On average it attracts more than 120,000 visitors. Many of who visit the province for up to one week, tour and spend money locally. Whilst the event takes place in the Portrush, Portstewart & Coleraine triangle area the impact on North Antrim is immense. The organisers, under the management and direction of Mervyn White are all volunteers. In recent years Northern Ireland Events Company have given some financial support and guidance that in my view is insignificant given the size and significance of the event. A seven-year financial package in addition to that already being provided targeted via the organisers to enable the attraction of new racers and increase the pull of the sporting event is essential. Additional resources at the disposal of the organisers (Colerain and District Motorcycle Club) are essential, as it will enable over the next seven years a major growth in the event.”
The Kennedy Group, of which Alistair Kennedy is a principal, sponsored the NW200 during the boom years and as recently as 2009, the race was known as the Kennedy International NW200.
Today, Minister Wilson has come out and given some carefully considered comments to the Belfast Telegraph about NAMA’s foreclosure on GBP 48m (€57m) of loans owed by the Kennedy Group. There is no statement on the Department of Finance and Personnel website, so all you have is the Bel Tel’s reporting in which Minister Wilson says
“I don’t know all the background about the group on the north coast or the problems or discussions they have had with Nama about paying off debts, but I would be concerned this was a new approach with which Nama are trying to act robustly with businesses in Northern Ireland. I will be raising this with Nama.
We don’t want this to become a source of friction between the administrations in Northern Ireland and the Republic, which has done fairly well out of loans the UK has made to bail it out.
Such a new approach by Nama would give me grave concerns, as this business could be the first of many.If that isn’t the case, and this is a specific issue Nama has with this company, then Nama needs to say what that is. To close businesses making money is just daft” [ENDS]
The direct quotes in the Bel Tel report from Minister Wilson use less inflammatory language than might be justified in the Bel Tel conclusion that NAMA’s move could “affect North-South relations” but we obviously haven’t all of the comments. NAMA is not commenting on the case.