Belfast Telegraph

UUP fury over NIE takeover

A PROPOSED Irish takeover of Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has been described as "outrageous" by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The Republic's state electricity board, the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) announced in July that it planned to buy NIE for £1bn from its parent company Viridian.

NIE controls Northern Ireland's electricity transmission and distribution networks, so the purchase would give ESB ownership of Northern Ireland's national grid and control of over £6bn worth of transmission and distribution assets.

The sale had been blocked since September due to debt problems at Viridian, but in November it was announced the sale would go ahead, subject to an agreement between Viridian and its lenders, to whom it owes £1.8bn.

UUP leader Tom Elliott MLA believes it would be "outrageous" to allow UK taxpayers' money from Ireland's recent bailout to be used to buy NIE.

Mr Elliott said: "I have in the past expressed my opposition to the sale of Northern Ireland Electricity to the Republic's Electricity Supply Board, and this opposition remains undimmed and justified.

"The fact is that ESB is owned by the government of the Republic of Ireland. The government of the Republic of Ireland has been bailed out by the EU and the UK."

The Irish government last month announced it would be seeking a bailout loan, expected to total around €85bn, from the International Monetary Fund and Europe.

Ireland is also set to accept a bilateral loan of around £7bn from the UK.