Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus: Northern Ireland Secretary says government action has been taken to tempt investors

Julian Smith was speaking in the Commons on Monday.
Julian Smith was speaking in the Commons on Monday.

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said the Government has taken measures it hopes will tempt investors into buying Wrightbus.

The Ballymena bus manufacturer collapsed into administration last week with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

One of the reasons for the collapse was a downturn in orders and a change in demand from diesel to electric buses.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, DUP MP Ian Paisley asked Julian Smith to ensure that potential investors are made aware of the Government support available to the company and all public buses are manufactured by British companies.

"Could he recognise that the arm's-length bodies, such as Translink and First Group and other bus buyers, need to be encouraged directly with economic assistance to buy more British-made buses?" Mr Paisley asked.

"Could he ensure in future all bus orders go through British companies therefore supporting British jobs and British investment?"

Mr Smith replied: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an announcement today to commit £220m to buses in Great Britain and there will be additional money for Northern Ireland coming out of that pot.

"We are also developing our national bus strategy and I hope that both of two initiatives will mean the market for buses, and the opportunity for the excellent product produced in Ballymena by Wrightbus, will be strong and will encourage investors to take the risk and develop the business further."

Mr Smith also said he hopes that the lack of a devolved Government in Northern Ireland will not hinder efforts to save Wrightbus.

The news comes the same day trade union Unite announced a rally for Wednesday action be taken to find a buyer for the firm.

"At noon on Friday Unite will organise a save Wrightbus Jobs and Skills march which will leave our Ballymena offices and proceed along the Galgorm road where workers will hold a second rally at the gates of the Wrightbus site," Unite's officer for Wrightbus George Brash said.

"Wrightbus workers will be joined by other trade unionists including those occupying Harland and Wolff. Our members will accept nothing less than the action needed to reopen the doors and let them get back to work. This is a fight not just for the twelve hundred workers facing redundancy but for the future of Ballymena. It is not a fight we can afford to lose.”

On Sunday, hundreds of workers held a protest outside Green Pastures Church in Ballymena, where former Wrightbus director Jeff Wright is a pastor.

Many have been critical of the more than £15m in donations the church had been given by Wrightbus over a six-year period.

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