Belfast Telegraph

Belfast council to hold emergency meeting in bid to save Harland and Wolff shipyard - Workers hand letter to PM

Belfast City Council will host an emergency meeting on Friday in a bid to help save the historic Harland and Wolff shipyard from closure.

The meeting has been called by SDLP councillor Brian Heading and Green party councillor Anthony Flynn and will take place at City Hall at 1.30pm.

They have tabled a motion which would see the council convene an urgent forum between Trade Unions, Invest NI, the Department for the Economy and the UK Government to secure the future of the shipyard.

Administrators are set to be appointed at Harland and Wolff on Monday.

Since the news was announced members of the shipyard's 130 staff have protested at the gates in Belfast docks, calling for an intervention to save it from closure.    

Staff protested at Stormont during Prime Minister Boris Johnson's first official visit to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, but a government spokesperson previously said that it was "ultimately a commercial issue."

Protestors handed a letter to an aide of Mr Johnson urging him to renationalise the shipyard, and said they were assured the letter would make it to the Prime Ministger.

Mr Johnson discussed with parties what the UK government could to to support the company during his visit.

A spokesperson for the shipyard workers said Mr Johnson showed "a complete lack of respect" by not meeting with them.

Michael Flacks of investment firm Flacks Group has indicated he would be interested in taking over the shipyard.

Harland and Wolff employees urged the PM to act to save the shipyard (Liam McBurney/PA)
Harland and Wolff employees urged the PM to act to save the shipyard (Liam McBurney/PA)

Councillor Heading said the shipyard could not be allowed to close due to its significance.

“Harland and Wolff is one of Belfast’s iconic landmarks. Aside from its critical role as a local employer within the manufacturing sector, it is a recognisable symbol to the world that Belfast is open for business. We cannot let it go without a fight," the SDLP councillor said.

“That’s why the SDLP and the Green Party have pressed for an emergency meeting of Belfast City Council to bring together agencies that can save the shipyard and preserve this skills base. We stand in solidarity with the workers and we’re going to do all we can to help.

“I want to pay tribute to the workers who have waged a fierce campaign to save their yard and to their union representatives who have taken the fight to the very top of the political agenda."

Councillor Heading said he was hopeful the motion would receive cross-party support.

“The shipyard is a remarkable story of diversification. From a mighty history as a premiere location for an old industry, it is now at the cutting edge of green technology and innovation as the site of assembly for huge wind turbines. That story can’t be lost," he said.

“We’re hoping to secure cross-party support for this proposal. These workers and this city deserves nothing less.”

Councillor Flynn said that the expertise of the shipyard workers in renewable energy must be fully protected and used.

“We have 11 years to tackle climate breakdown and Harland and Wolff can be at the forefront of meeting the challenge through renewable energy technology," he said.

The Harland and Wolff yard, which helped define the Belfast's industrial past, has been up for sale amid serious financial problems at its Norwegian parent company.

Its two huge cranes dominate the east Belfast skyline but its peak period as an employment powerhouse was during the Second World War.

The last ship built there was the Anvil Point in 2003.

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