Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson pledges support to help Ballymena bounce back from job blows

By Nevin Farrell

Liam Neeson has pledged his support to help his home town of Ballymena bounce back from major job blows.

The 63-year-old acting star, who accepted the 'Freedom' of Ballymena in 2013, has agreed to shoot a 'special advertisement' featuring areas of Northern Ireland.

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council mayor Billy Ashe said the council had contacted Neeson, who grew up at Corlea Gardens in the Demesne estate in Ballymena, after he said recently he would back moves to promote the Ballymena area.

Mayor Ashe said: “He has agreed to work along with Tourism NI and Council to shoot a special advertisement featuring areas back home... and has agreed to appear on camera. The (Council's) Chief Executive  is now working with Tourism NI to organise the same."

In November, Neeson - who now lives in America - described the news that the Michelin tyre factory in Ballymena is to close as “tragic” and called for Northern Ireland’s Executive to “get to work”.

“I’ve always maintained that our wee corner of the globe is one of the world’s best kept secrets, not least in its potential for development in all areas of industry.

“All the more reason for the Executive and Invest Northern Ireland to really get to work now and promote the hell out of the province. They have and always will have my full support”.

Almost 2,000 jobs in Ballymena, a town with a population of 30,000, will be lost when Michelin closes along with the shutdown of the JTI Gallaher cigarette factory in Ballymena which was announced in 2014.

There are concerns that Ballymena will suffer greatly and now people are set to take to the streets to demand new jobs and more investment.

A 'Rally for A Future' will be held at Broadway bandstand in the centre of the town at noon on Saturday February 6.

Campaigners say the job losses "threaten a permanent erosion in job prospects for future generations. We can't sit back as our town is left a wasteland. We demand investment."

In 2014, Ballymena Global Alumni Network was launched to bring together people from around the world with links to the town to help with business growth.

Neeson has done his bit for tourism in Northern Ireland before.

In 2014 he featured in a video encouraging people to visit the province and said he was "delighted" at being asked to "promote the treasures of my homeland".

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