The news that 1,000 jobs will be lost at Bombardier over the next two years is a major blow for the individuals who will be affected.
It is also a blow for the Northern Ireland economy. The Canadian-owned aerospace manufacturer is one of the largest employers in the Province.
It is, as the local MP Gavin Robinson said, “devastating” news. Mr Robinson is right to point out, as he did in defence of his DUP colleague Jonathan Bell, who is Stormont’s enterprise minister, that this has happened amid difficulties for the airline sector. Bombardier is, after all, axing 7,000 staff globally. But as Mr Robinson also said, it “doesn’t make it any easier” for employees in Belfast that the job losses are part of wider cuts.
Manufacturing in Northern Ireland has been hit with one disappointment after another, with closures of factories such as JTI Gallahers and Michelin. The unions want a manufacturing strategy and no-one will quibble with that. The CBI cites the need to reduce the cost base in the Province, and no-one will quibble with that either. But demands such as those, and that we improve our competitiveness, are easily said.
One part of the jigsaw is cutting corporation tax, which is partly aimed at improving the situation in manufacturing. It is encouraging to hear Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, express confidence that Bombardier will continue to play a leading role in our economy.
Northern Ireland is, as he says, a great place to do business. It has always been so, since the days when Belfast was a leading British industrial city.
The economy was knocked sideways by the Troubles. Everyone agrees that we are more reliant on public money and welfare than we would want to be. Corporation tax is one element in the route out of that.
Orders for Bombardier’s C-series 300 jets are still coming in, as the purchase of 75 of them from Air Canada demonstrates. That product is an advert for NI’s high skill potential.