Belfast Telegraph

Video: Liam Neeson urges people to attend Ballymena jobs rally as James Nesbitt gives backing

By Claire Williamson

Liam Neeson has given a final push in urging people to attend a rally demanding investment and jobs for his hometown of Ballymena.

Almost 2,000 jobs in the town with a population of 30,000 will be lost in the near future after two of the area's biggest employers - Michelin tyres and JTI Gallaher tobacco - announced plans to close.

The Ballymena-born actor of Taken fame first lent his support to the campaign last month.

The rally organised by Unite Union is set to take place at the Ballymena bandstand on Saturday February 6 at 12pm.

Today the Hollywood actor released a video message in which he refers to himself as a "proud Ballymena man" urging people to attend.

Joining him in giving his backing to the Co Antrim town is Broughshane-born actor James Nesbitt who found fame in Cold Feet and went on to star in The Hobbit.

He sent a message of support where he said that he shared the pain of the loss of jobs of those back home.

"While my career has taken me far from home, I’ve always had a great affection for the town and its people.

"The loss of these well-paying and stable jobs not only threatens those affected directly and their families, but will have a devastating impact on the wider economy and community.

“We must seize this moment to show Ballymena and Northern Ireland’s ambition to be a highly sought after centre for international business. We have highly-skilled and dedicated workers, great infrastructure, and the heart to make it happen.

"We just need to Unite together as workers, community members, elected officials and business leaders, to show the world that we can build a better future.”

Regional Secretary of Unite Jimmy Kelly welcomed the support.

He said: “The Rally For A Future campaign was launched by workers in Michelin and JTI-Gallaher factories who faced redundancy when it was announced that their factories would close.

"They chose not to be bystanders to that fate but to do campaign to demand real action for secure investment and jobs for their town and to safeguard a better future.

“Their initiative has been met with widespread enthusiasm and support from across the community. Their campaign has been backed by the local Chamber of Commerce, local sports groups, including Ballymena United, and by Ballymena star, Liam Neeson.

"Now James Nesbitt has taken the time out from his busy schedule – he is currently working on filming ‘Cold Feet’ to encourage unity of purpose in the ambition of securing a better future.

“It is clear that Rally For A Future continues to gather momentum as we move towards Saturday. It is vital that everyone in the local community makes the effort to join with us in sending the strongest possible message to our political leaders."

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