Europe 'open' to assisting Gallaher's staff - McGuinness
Martin McGuinness has said European officials are open to the prospect of staff at Ballymena's JTI Gallaher plant benefiting from a major fund to assist workers facing redundancy.
Speaking after meeting EU leaders in Brussels to explore what assistance could be made available to workers following the announcement that Gallaher's is to close by 2017 with the loss of almost 900 jobs, Mr McGuinness said;
"I had very positive discussions with key officials and MEP's involved in the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund which has a €150 million budget to assist workers facing redundancy by helping them retrain or to set up their own business.
"I strongly made the case that Gallaher's clearly falls into the remit of this fund which aims to help people losing their jobs as a direct result of global market trends.
"I was extremely encouraged by the response I received and it is clear to me that Europe is open to receiving a bid on behalf of the Gallaher's workers and, indeed, would welcome the opportunity to assist.
"The authority to submit a bid can be delegated the North's Executive and given the overwhelming support of all parties to helping the Gallaher's workers, I now intend to speak to Peter Robinson and other Executive Ministers to agree a way forward.
"This is an opportunity to do something tangible to help the Gallaher's workers and the goodwill expressed to me by key decision makers in Europe must be followed up by a formal bid for assistance."