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Latest jobs blow a wake-up call

Editor's Viewpoint

In a province already hit by massive job losses there is further devastating news that another 1,080 are to go at Bombardier. This is down to complex factors in the international aviation business, but uppermost in most people's minds today is the huge impact on the families involved and on the wider east Belfast community.

This blow is another challenge to Stormont and to the relatively new Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell, who in a recent interview with this newspaper asked to be judged on his record.

It would be totally unfair to apportion blame to Mr Bell for previous job losses, including those at Gallaher's in Ballymena, but this latest employment setback has taken place on his watch, and people will be looking closely at how he handles the situation.

Everyone, including the workers and their families, will want to know how Stormont and the minister are going to address this latest catastrophe.

Ironically, east Belfast was once the hub of our industrial revolution, but those times have passed and everyone in the area - including the traders - are facing difficult, straitened times.

What is required now is a transparent Government strategy to deal with a vastly changed and still changing situation.

There needs to be a huge drive to develop relevant, urgent and joined-up thinking across all departments so that more inward investment can be attracted.

But no one should underestimate the degree of energy, creativity and determination that is needed from all quarters.

The First Minister's experience in politics and industrial development makes her uniquely qualified to spearhead this essential effort, and we expect strong leadership from Mrs Foster.

That said, there is no point in expecting people to conjure jobs from thin air.

However, Northern Ireland has shown many times that it has a dedicated and skilled workforce, as well as ingenuity and flair in creating employment opportunities.

This is not a time for despair, but rather an opportunity to seek further ways to move forward.

If the economy does well, as we all sincerely hope it does, it is good news for Northern Ireland plc, for Stormont and its ministers, for power-sharing, and, above all, for the people of this province.

Belfast Telegraph

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