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Bombardier job losses latest in series of serious blows for Northern Ireland's beleaguered manufacturing sector

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry has suffered a number of devastating blows in the past 12 months.

The job losses at Bombardier follow similar cuts at Michelin and JTI Gallaher's.

Around 860 positions will go at the tyre giant when it closes its doors in 2018.

And a similar number of jobs will be lost at JTI Gallaher's when it shuts down completely by the end of 2017. A number of other firms, including Caterpillar NI and Schrader Electronics, both based in Co Antrim, have made substantial cutbacks.

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said the combined closures were a serious concern for the sector as a whole.

"One per cent of our manufacturers employ almost half of all those who work in manufacturing and 49% of turnover," Mr Kelly said. "This is undoubtedly a difficult period for the Bombardier leadership, management and staff but we should remain confident that Bombardier will play a leading role in our economy."

The jobs crisis reached a high point when Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, after coming under pressure from business groups and the media, set up an advisory group to report on the challenges facing the sector, including rising energy costs.

He has faced stark criticism for his handling of the deluge of job losses.

And following yesterday's announcement from Bombardier, he faced calls from both the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP to consider his position as minister.

Bombardier accounts for around 7% of all manufacturing jobs across Northern Ireland, with more than 80,000 workers across the sector as a whole.

The company also represents around 10% of total exports from Northern Ireland and almost 50% of the total number of manufacturing jobs in Belfast.

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