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Peace deal delivers jobs to Ireland

PRIVATE FINANCE deals in Northern Ireland are likely to accelerate next year as a result of the Good Friday peace accord and new Assembly, the Government promised last week.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said that alongside stability and security, rebuilding the province's infrastructure was now a top priority. 'Education, housing and health are even more important in Northern Ireland because the last 30 years of violence has produced an unacceptable level of deprivation and exclusion.'

Commenting this week, property consultant Chesterton Belfast office director Eric Munro said the number of PFI schemes was set to increase significantly in the second half of next year.

'The Assembly will generate much more of a political will for infrastructure investment because it will be on the doorstep, but it will have to look to the private sector,' he said.

The key PFI markets are likely to be health and education, with work in schools estimated at up to pounds2bn. Projects are likely to be packaged to the value of pounds20M to generate the economies of scale needed to make PFI viable.

Amey, WS Atkins, Serco and the Building and Property Group are already looking to win schemes in the province. Amey business development executive for Northern Ireland Eric Turtle put the potential PFI market at a more conservative pounds1bn but added: 'Northern Ireland is 10 years behind the rest of the UK in terms of infrastructure development. Clearly the increased stability will encourage more investment from the private sector and certainly from us.'

Matthew Jones

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