Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson joins US jobs push with Invest NI

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's most successful acting export Liam Neeson has called on international firms to set up in here - especially in his beloved Ballymena.

After throwing his weight behind stricken factory workers in his home town who are to lose their jobs, Liam is now lending his support to an Invest NI campaign to attract international companies.

He says a decision to cut Northern Ireland's corporation tax - which will mean companies pay less tax on their profits - will transform the region.

Invest NI has made a TV ad being aired in the US, aimed at big investors who want to set up on this side of the Atlantic.

The actor said: "As a native of Ballymena, I'm backing the drive for jobs and investment in my home town.

"I firmly believe that the commitment of the Northern Ireland Executive to reduce the rate of corporation tax to 12.5% from April 2018 really is a potential game-changer for our economy."

He said the change of tax rate could create thousands of new jobs "and make Northern Ireland the most attractive investment location in Western Europe".

Those jobs were "seriously needed and... will help revitalise towns like Ballymena by encouraging investment in both the manufacturing and service sectors".

He sang the praises of the town's workforce, saying: "In Ballymena we have an abundance of highly skilled and educated workers plus a proud tradition of innovation, and a strong manufacturing and engineering heritage.

"When you are considering where next to invest in Western Europe, I would encourage you strongly to come and visit us, see the skills of our people and the value we can add to your business."

Last month a video clip was shown of Liam in Ballymena during a rally held in the town to highlight the pain caused by the departure of big companies JTI Gallaher and Michelin. In the clip he paid tribute to the town's "incredible craftspeople and skilled workers".

Cigarette company Gallahers will shut next year with the loss of around 870 jobs, while tyre manufacturer Michelin will pull down the shutters one year later, leading to 1,000 jobs being lost.

The closures are a major threat to Ballymena's economy. The TV ad is part of a push by the First and Deputy First Ministers to get big companies to set up here.

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness are taking in New York, Washington and California's Silicon Valley on their trip, a tradition for Northern Ireland's leaders as the US marks St Patrick's Day.

Belfast Telegraph