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Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 11:45 am, 22nd November 2016

He was giving me a warning, but I travel in hope and with some confidence. In relation to the issue of empty factories, you are absolutely right: it is a conundrum. We have stepped back and presumed that if a factory is empty, there is nothing we can do about it. Then a case was brought forward by the CEO of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council relating to a derelict factory. It was the opinion in that case and in others that, in fact, the realisation of a landlord that there is no penalty at all in having a factory sitting empty does not encourage movement or action, but it is difficult.

The Member will have heard, at the end of my statement, reference to a tax on derelict land. That has the same difficulties. Sometimes, people say to me, "I am sitting on derelict land; it is not that I do not want to sell it, I just cannot get a buyer for it". The issue is not without complexity or challenges, but I urge the Member to move forward with an open mind. If we could prove to him that introducing a tax or rates on empty factories would help to convert them into productive assets, I hope that we would then get his support. We have a fair bit of evidence gathering to do before he comes to that decision, but I hope that he will proceed with an open mind as we negotiate these issues.