Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell vows to replace lost Michelin jobs
The Enterprise Minister has vowed to "leave no stone unturned" to replace hundreds of jobs being lost with the closure of a Co Antrim tyre factory.
Michelin said it intends to shut its Ballymena plant in 2018, putting almost 900 people out of work.
Jonathan Bell, who faced fierce criticism from unions in the wake of the shock announcement, said during Question Time : "We have got a two and a half year period to 2018 to try to get this right.
"And I'll tell you I will leave no stone unturned to try to bring jobs in to replace what has been there."
The DUP minister also told MLAs he has held a series of meetings with factory chiefs to discuss their plans.
He added: " We acknowledge the work with the Michelin management that people will not be out of work until 2018 and the hope is, their ambition, and it is an ambition that everybody in this House should actually have, is that they can leave work to another job with a healthy pay cheque in their hands."
He said a reduction in corporation tax would be also a major draw for new businesses into the region.
"We have to reduce our corporation tax, set the date that we are going to do that; and attract those 30,000 plus new jobs that are available to Northern Ireland," Mr Bell added.
Union bosses have warned that 500 contractors who work with Michelin will also be affected, with many other local businesses whose trade relies on the plant.
DUP MLA for East Antrim Gordon Lyons described the closure as "devastating".
News of the mass redundancies at Michelin, described as a "body blow" to the local economy, came a year after another major employer in Ballymena - the JTI Gallaher tobacco factory - announced plans to close its operation by 2017 with the loss of around 870 jobs.