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Living through the Troubles gave me strength for shipyard fight, says campaign leader Joe Passmore

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Harland and Wolff steel worker Joe Passmore addressing Belfast City Hall during emergency council meeting to discuss the threat of the closure to the shipyard.

Harland and Wolff steel worker Joe Passmore addressing Belfast City Hall during emergency council meeting to discuss the threat of the closure to the shipyard.

PA

Harland and Wolff steel worker Joe Passmore addressing Belfast City Hall during emergency council meeting to discuss the threat of the closure to the shipyard.

The union rep who became the face of the fight to save Harland & Wolff has told how seeing the worst of the Troubles gave him strength for the battle.

East Belfast man Joe Passmore was one of the leading figures in the seven-week campaign to save the shipyard from closure last year.

Speaking in a new BBC documentary about the battle, Mr Passmore said he was up for it from day one.

"The day that they told us, 'Sorry, we don't have a buyer. We're going into administration next week', I was able to hold a meeting that morning and pull everybody together, including senior management," he added.

"I said, 'I'm sorry, but we've nowhere else to go on this. We've only one option left. I'm up for the fight. Are you up for the fight?'

"Every one of them stood up and every one of them followed me down to the gate. That's how it started.

"I went through the Troubles, the very worst of it. When you go through that, it either turns to hatred or it turns into a determination to never let it happen again.

"I believed in the shipyard. I believed that people's rights came before all that flag-waving, before all that nonsense. I believe in the rights of working people.

"I'm proud of this shipyard, our shipyard - we all are. When we unite like this, we are a force to be reckoned with."

Steelworker Joe, a 30-year veteran of the shipyard, led the round-the-clock protest at the gates, as well as being closely involved in negotiations with unions and administrators and acting as a spokesman to the media.

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Harland and Wolff workers Barry Reid (left) and Joe Passmore celebrate following the announcement that the Belfast shipyard has been saved after it was bought for £6 million by InfraStrata, a company that works on energy infrastructure projects.

Harland and Wolff workers Barry Reid (left) and Joe Passmore celebrate following the announcement that the Belfast shipyard has been saved after it was bought for £6 million by InfraStrata, a company that works on energy infrastructure projects.

PA

Harland and Wolff workers Barry Reid (left) and Joe Passmore celebrate following the announcement that the Belfast shipyard has been saved after it was bought for £6 million by InfraStrata, a company that works on energy infrastructure projects.

Harland and Wolff was eventually rescued from closure when it was purchased by the London-based energy company InfraStrata for £6million in October last year.

Mr Passmore said he felt a responsibility to continue the campaign and pass on the skills learned in the shipyard to future generations.

"If I'm good at something, I like to say, 'This is how you do it - it's easy', but I have had one other guy I have managed to pass this on to. There isn't anyone else.

"I need to get apprentices in here and I need to start them really young to get to know this.

"They shouldn't be in call centres or McDonald's or anything. They should be in here learning a trade. Then we have a future and then the industry has a future."

As part of the rescue deal, InfraStrata committed to retaining all 79 workers who were employed by the shipyard last year.

It also hopes to increase the total workforce by several hundred members of staff by 2024.

True North: Saving the Shipyard is on BBC One Northern Ireland tomorrow at 10.45pm

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