Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has described news that the JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena is to close in May 2017 with the loss of almost 900 jobs as a ‘devastating blow’.
The North Antrim MLA said: “The massive scale of these job losses is a devastating blow not only to the local economy in Ballymena and the wider North Antrim area, but also to Northern Ireland plc.
“What hasn’t yet been taken into consideration are the effects on the other jobs that are connected to the factory such as downstream suppliers, sub-contractors and transport companies, all who will also feel the ripple effect.
“I have spoken to Union representatives and they are determined to work with all parties to ensure that the current workforce have the best opportunities available to them. To this extent I have contacted the Employment and Learning Minister to see what support mechanisms his Department can provide. I am awaiting his response.
“Gallahers has been an integral part of the Ballymena economy for generations and what also has to be realised is their wider commitment to the Northern Ireland economy, with their support for the Ulster Orchestra, the Ahoghill Community Association and for a senior citizens group based in Harryville.
Ulster Unionist Economy spokesperson Danny Kinahan MLA said: “This is a major blow for Northern Ireland and for all those who will feel the effects. Gallahers has a long tradition in Northern Ireland, I myself have family links to it, with my father being a former director. I find this closure deeply shocking.
“I look forward to hearing from the DETI Minister on what the long term plans are for the Ballymena area to mitigate the effects of this closure.
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said: “While this was a shock and there is no doubt that the regulation recently passed by Europe on size of the packaging played a large role, I will continue to fight for the jobs at JTI in the coming months to see if any change can be made”.