Shipyard land sold for a song

185 ACRES of prime development land in East Belfast are to be sold for a song. Olsen Energy has agreed to sell off the land, which was once part of the Harland & Wolff site, for 47 million.

By Tommy Black

The sale marks a final chapter in the run down of the shipyard. It confirms that the decision to privatise the yard marked the beginning of the end for shipbuilding in Belfast. Workers were encouraged, by local politicians like Peter Robinson among others, to join in what was advertised as a "management/worker buy out".

In reality, privatisation meant handing full control of the yard to Fred Olsen, who now owns 92% of the shares. It also gave Olsen control, through a long term lease, of acres of some of potentially the most valuable land in Belfast. From the outset, it was clear that Olsen was more interested in making a killing from the land than in developing shipbuilding. He quickly set up a separate company to manage the land and began the sell off.

The buyer was reported to be a "European development company". This turns out to be Dublin based developers, "Harcourt Developments".

The future of this area is now in the hands of profiteers who will "develop" it in whatever way makes them the most money. What remains of Harland & Wolff, plus the land now held by Olsen, should be brought back into public ownership. It could then be developed in a way that would benefit the people of Belfast, providing jobs, recreational facilities and social housing, not to make a quick buck for people like Fred Oslen.

Socialist Voice, July 2003

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