North Antrim MLA Robin Swann has called on the Stormont Executive “to give the Bushmills Whiskey firm all the assistance it needs to purchase and develop the soon to be axed Michelin tyre site if that is what their intention is”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his challenge to the Executive after rumours emerged that Bushmills Whiskey is looking to purchase the Michelin site.
Mr Swann said that hints that these rumours could become a realistic economic possibility surfaced after he asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for his assessment of the prospects for the local manufacturing sector.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the Minister said: “According to the latest ‘DETI Economic Commentary’, from October 2015: “Manufacturing has continued to post strong growth, with output up 3.2% over the past four quarters”
“Output is up 3·2% over the past four quarters. Over the past year, the sector also added 1,870 jobs, which brings the total number of manufacturing jobs to more than 80,000. Having taken the number of manufacturing jobs to more than 80,000, we should be cognisant of the fact that that is the first time that Northern Ireland has achieved that since 2008.
“However, a number of major redundancies have been announced, and there is no room for complacency. My Department and Invest Northern Ireland will continue to do all that we can do to support investment, create jobs and promote competitiveness in the manufacturing sector,” the Minister told Mr Swann.
Assemblyman Swann added: “Reading between the lines of the Minister’s response, is he alluding that Bushmills Whiskey could be interested in taking over and developing the Michelin tyre plant?”
Mr Swann met management at the Bushmills Whiskey site recently with his party colleagues Jim Nicholson MEP and Councillors Joan Baird and Sandra Hunter, where the management stressed their strong desire to expand, but that the factory in Bushmills was key to the future of the company.
“If this is what the Minister was hinting at, then he needs to work with his Executive colleagues to do all they can to facilitate this takeover so that the full benefit can be reaped in North Antrim. We have suffered quite badly in recent years in the constituency through severe jobs losses, so the Minister will need to come up with actual posts rather than fine words,” said Assemblyman Swann.