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Hundreds of Northern Ireland jobs face the axe in downturn

Hundreds of jobs are under threat after a number of companies fell victim to the economic downturn.

Belfast Metropolitan College has announced it is axing over 100 posts. The redundancies will take place over the next year and a half.

The college, which has six main sites, blamed the job losses on a shrinking number of students and the impact of public spending cuts.

Richard O'Rawe, chair of the governing body said the job cuts are necessary to “secure Belfast Metropolitan College's future sustainability and development”.

Up to six lawyer and support staff jobs are to go at the Beflast office of UK law firm McGrigors, which opened in Northern Ireland after a merger with historic Belfast firm L'Estrange and Brett.

But it was Co Derry which took the biggest blow after three |well-known businesses went into administration.

Household name J Kennedy & Co (Contractors) and Kennedy Concrete Products folded, blaming a lack of support from its bank. Around 55 jobs in the north west are at risk as a result.

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The 60-year-old Kennedy Group sponsored the North West 200 motorcycle race for most of the last decade. The Coleraine firm, set up by the father of the present head Alistair Kennedy, was behind many of Northern Ireland’s most iconic industrial buildings, including the headquarters of Dupont in Londonderry and Seagate Technologies in Limavady.

The Limavady Gear Company — which operates from the former Seagate Technologies site — has also gone into administration, putting 27 jobs under threat.

A spokesman for Kennedy Group said: “Unfortunately due to the current economic downturn which has impacted heavily on the construction industry in Northern Ireland, coupled with the lack of support available within the banking sector, the directors of the companies felt they had no option but to cease operations.”

The Limavady Gear Company employs 27 people in precision engineering and the manufacture of replacement gears for the wind turbine and heavy industry.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said he had been in contact with the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Invest Northern Ireland to see whether or not the company could be saved, as they have “quite a healthy order book”.

“The company are at a critical juncture so after speaking to one of the directors I contacted Arlene Foster and Invest NI immediately. I understand they have been in touch with each other and the company.”

Mr Campbell also expressed shock at the difficulties in parts of the Kennedy Group.

“If this is what happens to firms like Kennedy ahead of the planned cuts we may unfortunately see a lot more of this.”

Coach firm Chambers Coach Hire in Moneymore has also gone into administration but administrator Ian Finnegan said the private hire part of its business had been rescued in a purchase deal.

Mr Finnegan said the jobs of 85 staff were safe and that a public sector contract with the Department for Regional Development to provide the Door-2-Door service for elderly people and the disabled, was being continued.

UK law firm McGrigors said it was making 40 redundancies across its UK offices with up to six at risk in Belfast.

A spokesman for McGrigors said: “This is not a matter which has been entered into lightly and we do so only as a last resort. We have always endeavoured to do the right thing by our people and believe that everything possible has been done to avoid this |measure.”

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