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Politicians clash over EU role in reasons for Gallaher plant closure


Claims: Ian Paisley leaves the Gallaher factory on Tuesday

Claims: Ian Paisley leaves the Gallaher factory on Tuesday

Claims: Ian Paisley leaves the Gallaher factory on Tuesday

The DUP and Sinn Fein have clashed over the role of a European directive on JTI's decision to close the old Gallaher's plant.

The company has said that one of the reasons for its decision to close the factory with the likely loss of up to 900 jobs was the impact of an EU directive on packet sizes.

The directive would see the banning of 10 packs of cigarettes and smaller packets of rolling tobacco – and leaves existing expensive machinery at Ballymena redundant.

DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley claimed those MEPs who had supported the EU Tobacco Products Directive were therefore accountable.

He singled out Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson and said she had been "one of its champions".

"Whilst other elected representatives stood on the factory floor to hear of its impact, Martina Anderson pointedly refused to accept an invitation to visit the company," he said.

Mr Paisley said: "When JTI are forced to make massive changes and a new multi-million pound investment it is little wonder they would take a decision to move to a lower-wage economy."

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He said representatives had been given the opportunity to directly influence one of the factors leading up to JTI's decision.

But Ms Anderson said it was "irresponsible" to link the factory closure with an EU directive, which she said was geared to stop children taking up smoking.

"The reason for JTI Gallaher's closing their plant is to increase profit margins and save money on labour costs by moving to a country with lower wages.

"It is irresponsible for elected representatives to provide cover for JTI or seek to score inaccurate political points. We should be standing together in order to provide those who have lost their jobs with a focused retraining and reskilling package."

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the votes of MEPs on the directive had affected the lives of 900 workers, their families and people in the supply chain.

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