Invest NI-owned overseas body to be wound-up due to Brexit

Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas say it must close because it can no longer bid for EU projects

Picture of white office building with NI-CO's logo.
The NI-CO offices at Landmark House in Belfast's Gasworks estate, were last week placed on the market with a £1.6m price tag. (Lisney)

A public body owned by Invest NI is set to be wound up due to Brexit.

Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO) is a not-for-profit consulting organisation, which is part of the Department for the Economy.

It was originally set up in 1992 to manage international development projects on behalf of government departments and other public bodies.

But the organisation is set to close permanently at the end of March 2024.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, 18 jobs will be lost.

It followed a review of NI-CO’s entire operation which it initiated in April 2023.

In its latest annual report, Invest NI said NI-CO’s board met on June 26 2023 and concluded it could no longer be considered a going concern.

Invest NI was contacted two days later and informed of the closure plan, which was subsequently approved.

Despite increasing its revenue by £1.5 million to £10.2m in the 2022-23 financial year, NI-CO said that it can no longer bid for contracts under the 2021-27 EU Multi-Finance Framework Programme due to the changes in the trading relationship between the EU and the UK.

The EU projects have traditionally been its main source of revenue.

NI-CO’s office base, Landmark House in Belfast’s Gasworks, was last week put up for sale with an asking price of £1.6 million.

In a statement, a spokesperson for NI-CO said: “EU projects have traditionally made up a significant proportion of NI-CO’s revenue, and following the review, the NI-CO board concluded that the company could no longer be considered a going concern.

“NI-CO presented a closure plan which was subsequently accepted by Invest NI, as NI-CO’s sole shareholder. It is anticipated that NI-CO will cease trading on March 31, 2024, and by that time 18 core staff will be made redundant.”

The organisation, which has been headed by Graeme McCammon for the past 30 years, had offered a range of services, including training, institutional capacity building and consultancy across health, policing & justice, governing, and agriculture.

Among the final projects NI-CO was involved in was the recruitment of senior roles in British overseas territories, including a £60,000 (tax-free) a year chief operating officer for the government of Tristan Da Cunha, a tiny active volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Former Belfast Newsletter editor, Austin Hunter, had been on assignment with NI-CO in Bahrain when he was tragically killed in a 2016 car crash.