Belfast Telegraph

Jobs crisis averted as bid to axe public cash for arms firms beaten by one vote

By Jim McDowell

A row over a "kamikaze" proposal to stop public money from going to plane and missile maker Bombardier has rocked Belfast City Hall.

Details of the previously unreported motion, tabled at the last city council meeting before the summer recess, only emerged over the weekend.

Tabled by the Green Party, it called for an end to funding from Invest NI and Stormont to Ulster firms involved in the production of "deadly weapons".

And the motion which - if followed up - could have jeopardised thousands of jobs here, was defeated… by just one vote.

The final tally at the council meeting was 19 votes for the motion, and 20 against.

Yesterday, East Belfast councillor Chris McGimpsey slated the attempt to strangle grants to defence contract companies here.

He stated: "This was a kamikaze motion. There are five-and-a-half thousand people employed in Bombardier, and another 500 in another firm specialising in manufacturing armaments in Belfast alone.

"If followed through, it would have led to a political and economic propaganda process which could have caused Bombardier to pull out of here and have thrown 6,000 people on to the dole, and made thousands more who work in ancillary industries and services redundant, too. This was an ill-conceived and wrong-headed motion, the aim of which was to force certain firms into liquidation, or, in the case of Bombardier, force them into pulling the plug on their plants in this province.

"This motion could have led to major firms involved in the defence industry here crashing and burning."

The motion tabled by Green Party East Belfast councillor Georgina Milne - where Bombardier's main plant is based - urged the council to write to both Invest NI and the Department for the Economy "requesting that support for the weapons industry be withdrawn and redirected towards building a sustainable economy".

Firms based here which manufacture arms receive millions of pounds in development and research grants, which also boosts jobs.

Ms Milne, many of whose constituents work in Bombardier, said she wasn't trying to take the pay packets out of people's pockets.

She insisted: "I simply cannot condone the sale of weapons to oppressive regimes."

She asked if people would rather have members of their family work to produce missiles, or turbines for wind farms.

Sinn Fein backed the motion, arguing that weapons made here "rain down death in other parts of the world".

But Mr McGimpsey warned: "If this motion had gone through, this council's lodestone would be that we started a process that put thousands of our own people out of work.

"And that makes nonsense of any ill-conceived notions of a so-called 'sustainable economy' as outlined in that farcical, but potentially hugely damaging, Green Party motion.

"Some people need to wise up and realise that we have to live in the real world."

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