12/04/2002

High level discussions held on Harland & Wolff’s future

Numerous political figures have been in discussions with regard to securing a viable future for Harland&Wolff at its site in East Belfast.

Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers, the Deputy Lord Mayor Hugh Smyth and the High Sheriff Wallace Browne met to discuss the current situation at the troubled shipyard.

After discussions held on Thursday April 11, Sir Reg Empey said that he and the Minister for Regional Development Peter Robinson had been working very closely on the issues involved since the company presented their Business Plan to both Ministers for consideration in February.

Sir Reg said: “Both of us are aware of the timescale involved but we are keen to see that public interest is protected. While we both want to see that jobs at the shipyard are protected, ultimately the viability of the Business Plan and the future of the Company depend on new contracts for work.”

Outlining DETI’s role on H&W Business Plan, Sir Reg said: “My Department was asked to review the Business Plan which sets out proposals for the restructuring of the Company that would see it operate on a much smaller area within the existing shipyard site.

“The review undertaken by consultants for the Department has confirmed that the Company would have the resources which it considers are required to implement its restructuring proposals. Therefore, they consider that the Plan is capable of implementation, if a deal on the land is successfully concluded.”

Sir Reg explained that agreement on the land issue was central to the Business Plan having any hope of success.

He added: “Much work needs to be done and at this stage we are a long way from the conclusion of any settlement. There needs to be much wider political consultation including with the Northern Ireland Executive, there are also many legal issues and European State Aids issues still to be resolved.

“Strategically, the Plan offers direction for the future, but if there is to be any development of the land this must include a mix of light industrial and other uses.”

The Minister added that the Plan did not require any public money, but it did require the Government’s endorsement and approval. Further discussions are planned in the coming weeks. (MB)

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