Page last updated at 18:31 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 19:31 UK

50m land deal scuppered, Paisley

Ian Paisley Jnr
Mr Paisley said he was right to represent his constituents' interests.

A 50m land deal has been scuppered by the Department of Social Development, Ian Paisley Jnr has claimed.

The land, at Ballee near Ballymena, had been vested by the government in 1970 but not developed.

It had been thought the matter was finally settled last July.

However, Mr Paisley said the deal collapsed because the department demanded that if a deal was not concluded within six months, the land would have to be re-valued.

He said he became involved in the issue in 2003 when some of the former owners told him they were upset that the Social Development Department was now seeking to sell the land.

Lobbied

With backing from some businessmen, including Seymour Sweeney, some of the original owners went to court to establish their claim of first refusal.

While this was pursued in court, Mr Paisley lobbied for a settlement and was still trying to get it settled when he became a junior minister last year.

His efforts drew criticism from the SDLP because he was pressing the SDLP minister claiming her department's valuation was too high.

Mr Paisley said he was acting as an MLA, not a junior minister, and he had the right to represent his constituents' interests.

Following the apparent collapse of the deal, Mr Paisley alleged the department had "failed to listen to him" and had missed its own six-month deadline and, with prices falling, the tax-payer had lost out.

The SDLP's Declan O'Loan, however, said he stood by his original criticism that Mr Paisley failed to put the public interest by lobbying for a lower price.

The Department of Social Development said it was disappointed that the deal had not gone through and for legal reasons could not comment further.




SEE ALSO
Paisley Jr reports 'not evidence'
03 Feb 08 |  Northern Ireland
Paisley remarks 'not a breach'
05 Sep 07 |  Northern Ireland

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