Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier deal: It keeps jobs safe and helps businesses stay alive, says east Belfast community

By Allan Preston

A potential multi-billion pound deal for Bombardier was cheered on the streets of east Belfast yesterday, a community where the livelihood of many families depends on the aerospace giant.

The Canadian firm's future in Northern Ireland and the jobs of around 4,000 workers have been in serious jeopardy since a trade dispute with the American firm Boeing.

Yesterday, the company was thrown a lifeline after a European customer signed a letter of intent to produce 31 new C-Series aircraft, with an option to create 30 more.

With a new production partnership with the US firm Airbus, many in east Belfast were hopeful the deal would protect workers.

The Rev Mervyn Gibson of Westbourne Presbyterian church on the Newtownards Road said he was relieved.

"Given the current political climate it's fantastic news that peoples' jobs should now be secured in east Belfast and the broader community," he said.

"Shorts (the original owner of the Belfast factory) has always been a huge part of the community, one of the main employers in the east.

"People saw the shipyards going downhill until it employed very few people and they feared Shorts would go the same way."

He added: "We've one or two families in the church associated with Bombardier and certainly it was a time of uncertainty for them. Hopefully this will change things."

Traders in east Belfast also welcomed the multi-billion dollar deal.

David Gough, owner of the Newton cafe, said it was "awesome news" for east Belfast.

"It keeps jobs safe and helps all businesses around here stay alive," he said. "We get a lot of trade from people from Shorts, so long may it continue."

Cafe workers Lauren Wilson (22) and Shannon McCord (20), said it would mean a great deal to customers.

"It's always a worrying thing to not know if your job's safe, especially coming up to Christmas," said Lauren.

"I've a friend who works in Shorts and they were worried sick about their job, but this is great news for them."

Shannon added: "It's great news for businesses like the cafe, lots of them would come here and hopefully this keeps their jobs secure."

Colin McKay (70), from east Belfast, said: "That's good for the Bombardier people. I know a few people who work there who were sure they would lose their jobs. This is a lot of help for them."

Ray McReynolds who runs a carpet and upholstery business, was having breakfast with his young son Stephen.

The 48-year-old, who also carried out contract work for Bombardier in the past, said: "It's good for workers in the east who have probably been under stress for years. I know a few boys who work there, it was difficult for them but hopefully their families will be safeguarded for a while."

Ken Thompson (65), from Donegall Pass said: "It's good news for a change, not just for the workers there but for all the outside contractors like electricians who depend on them. The last thing people need at this time of the year is to be paid off."

Bakery worker Stuart Hanratty (32) added: "I know people from school who feared for their jobs. That includes a lot of agency staff as well, about 250, so they can breathe a sigh of relief too. Hopefully a year down the line there's no more problems, but you never know."

John Duffy, owner of the Fresh Meat Centre, said he hoped the news would help local business.

"It's great news about the deal, jobs will hopefully be kept and families can enjoy Christmas time and can start the new year with a smile on their faces," he said.

"It's good for trade as well, as businesses on the Newtownards Road really need a helping hand too."

Andrew Irvine from the East Belfast Mission has been helping 400 long-term unemployed people get back into work.

He said: "When we hear that jobs are (hopefully) secured like this, it's tremendously good news for us.

"Every day we get to see the impact that unemployment has on peoples' self-worth and their families.

"Most people may not appreciate how traumatic that actually is.

"So from our point of view, this is extremely good news."

Belfast Telegraph

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