24 January 2003

Liquidated steel company to abandon lease

By Tommy Barker, Property Editor
Irish Examiner 24/1/03

THE Irish taxpayer is about to be handed a poisoned chalice - an island property with a clean-up bill likely to cost tens of millions of euro.

Liquidator of ISPAT/Irish Steel Ray Jackson of KPMG last night confirmed he is to seek High Court approval for the liquidated steel company to abandon its lease on the Haulbowline Island plant in Cork harbour.

It means the landlord, the Department of Finance, will be left facing an as-yet undetermined clean-up bill to sterilise the land which has radioactive and other pollutant problems identified by an EPA report.

Another industrial site, IFI at Marino Point, will be put on the market in Spring and may make €15-20 million.

Liquidator Ray Jackson of KPMG last night confirmed he has appointed agents CB Hamilton Osborne King to prepare the former Cork harbour-based fertiliser plant for sale.

He is also the liquidator for the long-troubled Irish Steel/ISPAT on Haulbowline Island, where a clean-up cost will run to tens of millions given the radioactive poisoning of some of the land as well as pollution from furnace dust, oils and metals.

Local public representative John Mulvihill said: "It will be a holy and utter disgrace if the State and taxpayer has to pick up this cost.

"ISPAT bought the plant for £1, got grants of millions, made money out of the plant and then walked away after five years with a fat wallet."

In comparison, Bord Gáis faced costs of €38 million to decontaminate the old gasometer in Dublin, and it cost them a further €6 million to cleanse lands in Cork where they now have their new Headquarters.

The Irish Navy has its base on Haulbowline next to Irish Steel, but a Department of Defence spokesperson said they had no interest in taking over the steel mill site.

"We have no aspirations towards it, we don't need it and we don't want it.

"Basically, it is an industrial plant which happens to be next to our base, that's all," he said. However, there will be demand for another liquidated Cork industry plant, the IFI site in Marino Point with a 100 acre plant, berth for ships and a rail spur off the Cork to Cobh rail line, plus a 125 acre farm across the road.

It may appeal to the harbour authority who are seeking to move their operations from Cork city's docks. Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating said the harbour authority "has to give it some thought. We cannot afford not to consider it."

However, it remains to be seen if it can afford to pursue it. The Port of Cork is looking at a number of harbour locations, including in-filling Raffeen Creek at Monkstown which will face considerable local public opposition.