A former Wrightbus worker has told how he “needs a miracle” to keep his daughter’s dream of being a world-class gymnast alive.
Jim McMaster was one of 1200 people who lost their jobs when the Ballymena bus making firm collapsed last week.
The 46-year-old has revealed the heartbreaking personal toll the loss of his career will have on him and his family.
The Kells man, who now lives in Craigavon, has been struggling for years to send his 13-year-old daughter Rachael to gymnastics training. The talented youngster harbours hope of one day competing in the Olympics, and just days ago she qualified for a major competition in England.
But Jim says he now faces the terrible prospect of telling his daughter that she will have to quit the sport she loves, as he can longer afford to send her.
“This will absolutely crush her,” he told the News Letter.
“My wee girl is going to be heartbroken. I pay £140 in diesel to get her to her gymnastics every month in Lisburn, and it is £130 a month on top of that for the actual gymnastics training. This upcoming competition will cost a couple of hundred pounds, which is money I just don’t have after being made redundant.
“The gymnastics is not cheap but it is her dream. She was a late starter but has worked herself up to the highest level she can be for her age. She loves it, it is her life. She is such a happy wee girl. How do you tell a wee girl that she has to give up her dream?
“I have been trying to do it all on my own and was always able to get her to every competition, but it is impossible now. I need a miracle.”
Jim started his career at Wrightbus in August 1992 as apprentice coach builder, and worked his way up to technical documentation specialist.
The sudden loss of his career has left him in severe financial trouble and he says he now fears for his future.
“It is an absolute nightmare,” he added.
“I have lots of debt which I was able to pay no problem when I was working, but have no chance of paying it now that I am unemployed.”
On Sunday, hundreds of laid-off workers demonstrated outside the Green Pastures church which received millions of pounds in donations from the manufacturer.
Jim said he was unable to attend the picket due to his dire financial situation.
He explained: “I am not able to go very far at the minute. Whatever diesel is in my car I need it to go and sign on and go to a job fair. If I get job interviews I am going to need diesel to get there. That is how bad it is.”
Jim said he was “gutted and shocked” when he learned that he had lost his job, adding: “I honestly didn’t see it coming. I thought I was pretty secure in my job. I didn’t see them closing, I thought they were too good of a company for that to happen.”
When asked if he felt angry with the company’s owners for what happened to the workforce, Jim said: “I am not pointing the finger of blame at the Wright family. More businesses will go under and it is just one of them things unfortunately.
“But I honestly think the government should step in, otherwise public transport is going to end up a complete disaster. There are thousands of Wrightbus vehicles out there and they wont have any parts support. There will be buses off the road and it will impact public transport big time.”