Hopes that the troubled Harland & Wolff shipyard can be rescued were rising today after a weekend of intensive negotiations.
The iconic Belfast company entered administration last month after its Norwegian parent company, Dolphin Drilling, failed to find a buyer.
Spurred on by support from the public, the remaining workers staged a round-the-clock occupation of the site as part of a high-profile campaign to save the yard.
They have also maintained pressure on the government in the hope that the business could be nationalised.
It is understood that prolonged negotiations took place over the weekend involving some of the potential buyers, NI Secretary Julian Smith, Invest NI and trade union officials.
Although there was no immediate breakthrough, one source close to a talks participant said there was renewed signs of optimism that the shipyard could be sold as a going concern, with enough work in the pipeline to secure the yard’s future in the short to medium term.
At the time of the administration announcement in early August, a spokesman for administrators BDO NI said: “In light of insufficient funds to cover the current running costs of the business and in the absence of any other funds being available at this point, in conjunction with unions the administrators have agreed to facilitate an unpaid temporary lay-off until Friday August 16.
“This provides a limited additional time for all parties to pursue any potential opportunity to find a commercial basis to continue the business as a going concern.”
A small number of the remaining 120 or so H&W workers took the option of redundancy and have left the company.