Belfast Telegraph

Politicians' worst fears exceeded by sheer scale of Bombardier's downsizing in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

The scale and severity of the job losses have shocked politicians and business groups.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that while Bombardier "made it clear their decision is as a result of inescapable global factors, the impact is very real for those affected, and for the wider economy".

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Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell added the company had "taken this decision to rationalise its workforce across all its sites in order to ensure its viability for the future".

In an interview with this newspaper earlier this month, Mr Bell said he had "been given nothing to indicate" more job losses were in the offing.

The scale of the cuts appeared to take some, such as Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton, by surprise. "While we were aware Bombardier intended to make cost reductions, the news of 7,000 jobs - 1,080 of them in Northern Ireland - is greater than anticipated," he said.

PwC chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie said the difficulties emphasised "the need for government and the private sector to be embedded as deeply as possible into the supply chains of the largest players in aerospace".

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers described the news as "bitterly disappointing" and said she had been in touch with Westminster over support.

The losses were also a huge blow to Unite's Davy Thompson, who insisted that the Executive "needs to redouble their efforts and secure alternative employment for highly skilled workers who will be made redundant".

"Invest NI must now commit themselves fully to proactively seeking foreign investment in manufacturing," he added.

Politicians from across east Belfast also weighed in over the news, with DUP MP Gavin Robinson urging help for affected workers.

"I hope that the job losses announced might be mitigated and that Bombardier can continue to be an important part of the fabric of the city," he said.

Alliance's Chris Lyttle said it was a "brutal blow". "My colleague and Employment Minister Dr Stephen Farry met with Bombardier and will be offering the support of his department to the company and workers on redundancy advice and guidance for training and employment opportunities," he added.

There were also calls from both the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP for Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell to consider his position as minister.

Ulster Unionist MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson said the announcement was "yet another example of a minister and department out of touch with the reality of the challenges" here.

And SDLP leader Colum Eastwood claimed that affected families would be "reeling from this devastating news".

Ukip MLA David McNarry, meanwhile, suggested Mrs Foster and Mr Bell should "fly straight to Bombardier head office" to grill the firm on its future intentions.

Belfast Telegraph