If any venture is worthy of public support, then H&W is

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The parent company of Harland and Wolff, Dolphin Drilling, failed to find a buyer for the yard yesterday.

Workers at the iconic Belfast site have voted to continued their occupation in protest at developments.

Their frustration is entirely understandable.

This is one of the most famous shipyards in the world, the place which built the Titanic in the early 1900s, and comparable vessels.

It is perhaps Northern Ireland’s most important ever private business.

Harland and Wolff evokes the days when Belfast was one of the great industrial cities of Europe, and the yard built some of the finest liners that ever set sail.

Overshadowing the history is the tragedy of the Titanic, but as the old saying goes: there was nothing wrong with her when she left here.

The yellow Harland and Wolf cranes, Samson and Goliath, are landmarks in Northern Ireland’s capital city.

H & W once employed 30,000 people. In recent years the workforce dwindled to a few hundred.

An illustrious history alone cannot retrieve a shipyard.

But it is telling that H & W latterly was involved in growing and modern technologies such as renewable energy. Look around the Ulster countryside at the proliferation of windmills and it is clear that there is a future in building such structures.

Administration is not liquidation, and so is never quite the end of the story in any struggling business.

If any venture is worthy of some sort of public financial assistance, H & W is that venture. But the local MP Gavin Robinson MP says there is official advice that this would be problematic, for reasons including state aid rules.

This is a devastating development for the workers involved and a melancholic one for Northern Ireland as a whole.