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Multimillionaire green energy tycoon Jo Bamford says he 'agonised' over staff layoffs at Ballymena Wrightbus plant

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Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Jo Bamford

Jo Bamford

Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Multimillionaire green energy tycoon Jo Bamford yesterday told of his "agonising" decision to pay off some workers at the Wrightbus plant in Ballymena.

Mr Bamford, who acquired the troubled bus manufacturing company after it ran out of cash last year, told Dublin's Sunday Business Post newspaper the decision to let some of its workers go had been a tough one.

Jo Bamford

Placing the layoffs decision in the context of the coronavirus crisis and the survival of the business, the businessman told the paper: "We're OK for this year.

"We could do with more orders.

"But we want to turn it round and grow the business back again.

"We have had to let some people go.

"That has been agonising, the decision-making there."

Mr Bamford - the son of Sir Joseph Cyril Bamford, founder of the world-renowned JCB plant and machinery firm - said he was sympathetic about what the workforce has had to go through, and was well aware that money is tight for local families.

"These are not a group of people who have a bit of cash for a rainy day either," he said.

"They're people who really do need and rely on their pay cheques.

"That's why the decisions you have to make sometimes are very tough.

"It's about how you save the whole - how do you keep as many people employed as possible?

"What I'm trying to do, using whatever platform I can, is to get as many products in there for next year to get the business going in the future."

Asked if he thought his Catholic faith had been an issue in the largely Protestant area, Mr Bamford said: "I think that's irrelevant. In my view it's a personal thing. I wouldn't even think about that at all.

"My wife is an Anglican from a long line of vicars."

He also paid tribute to the work of local MP Ian Paisley in brokering the deal that saved the Wrightbus factory.

"Let me say this about Ian Paisley, whatever his politics, and I'm not into politics whatsoever, but as a local MP he worked incredibly hard," the businessman said.

"I wouldn't be in Northern Ireland if he hadn't got my number from someone, called me up, chased me, pushed me to get into there.

"Any time we want to be heard he really helps us."

Having established his operations here, Mr Bamford is convinced there's a major opportunity to build a green transport eco-system across the island.

And he's feeling optimistic about the future, sensing business openings coming from the European Union's plan to invest billions in zero-carbon hydrogen energy.

"I'm very happy we have a factory in Northern Ireland," he told the paper.

"I'd like to do a lot more in southern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph