North Antrim MP Ian Paisley described the announcement of the planned closure of the Michelin tyre plant in Ballymena as “apocalyptic” in local employment terms.
Commenting on the announcement that it is to run-down the factory in Ballymena by mid-2018, the MP said: “The sad news today that Michelin will close its doors in north Antrim in 2018 is apocalyptic in terms of employment for my constituency.
He said that 860 workers, “in the jaws of Christmas, have received the news that they are now effectively on notice and my heart goes out to them at this time”.
He understood the announcement is part of a wider EU re-structuring by the company and noted the impact that cheap Far Eastern imports have had on Goodyear.
“The north Antrim factory has put up a valiant fight, but today it has bowed its head.
“I have for several years campaigned for reduced energy costs to assist this company and I know that much work was done to assist them from central government.
He added: “I have also asked that a most generous package will be put in place for workers and, importantly, I have secured from the Michelin Development Community Fund (MDCF) £5 million to assist the local community with new employment start-ups.”
North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister also lamented the job losses.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the devastating blow that has fallen on north Antrim this morning with the announcement of the closure of the Michelin plant at Ballymena,” he said.
“My thoughts are with the hard-working employees who have received such devastating news today.
He added: “With the pending departure of Gallaher’s, Michelin was the mainstay for high grade manufacturing jobs.
“Ballymena cannot sustain this second massive body blow.”
North Antrim UUP MLA Robin Swann said: “This very worrying news coming out of Michelin in Ballymena is another body blow for not just the north Antrim economy, but the entire manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland.”