Declassified files: Developer Seymour Sweeney suggested private sale for Runkerry House

Ian Paisley Jr, Ian Paisley Snr and Seymour Sweeney (centre)
Ian Paisley Jr, Ian Paisley Snr and Seymour Sweeney (centre)
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The developer Seymour Sweeney – who would go on to buy Runkerry House – told a civil servant that selling it on the open market may not be the best plan.

After a March 1995 phone conversation with Jim McKeown in the Department of Finance, Mr Sweeney wrote to him “to confirm my company’s very considerable interest in the property”.

He said: “From our discussions I understand that the department proposes to sell the property on the open market, a strategy which may result in the building not being utilised to the best advantage of the N. Ireland economy generally (socio-economic and tourist).

“Conversely, my company is finalising a project, the cornerstone of which is Runkerry House and associated land to be submitted to the Millennium Commission involving the restoration of the Causeway Tram combined with the introduction of a craft/culture village, hotel, leisure and self-catering accommodation facilities.”

He asked that due to the local and international significance of his proposal that “prior to finalising the decision to dispose of the asset, my company’s proposal be given consideration”.

Four months earlier, Ian Paisley and Ian Paisley Jr, along with SDLP MP Joe Hendron and the director of Runkerry House, met NIO minister Sir John Wheeler to discuss Runkerry House.

Dr Paisley said he was “concerned” at the decision to close the facility. He said that he had “never received one complaint about Runkerry in spite of the nature of its intake” and it would mean the loss of 30 jobs in the area.