Emergency council meeting called over Harland and Wolff shipyard crisis

An emergency meeting of Belfast City Council has been called over the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

The meeting will take place on Friday, just days before administrators are due on Monday at the historic shipyard known around the world for being the birthplace of the ill-fated liner Titanic.

Harland and Wolff workers have maintained a demonstration at the gates of the shipyard since Monday afternoon.

They have called for the Government to nationalise the shipyard.

Boris Johnson visit to Northern Ireland
Harland and Wolff employees protest to save the shipyard at Stormont House in Belfast, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting (Liam McBurney/PA)

On Wednesday, they brought their Save our Shipyard protest to Stormont during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first official visit to the region.

They were not admitted to meet Mr Johnson, and instead handed in a letter for him.

An emergency meeting of Belfast City Council has been called by SDLP councillor Brian Heading and Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn.

They have tabled a motion which would see the council convene an urgent forum between trade unions, Invest NI, the Department for the Economy and the UK Government to secure the future of the shipyard.

Mr Heading described Harland and Wolff as one of Belfast’s “iconic” landmarks, saying “we cannot let it go without a fight”.

“That’s why the SDLP and the Green Party have pressed for an emergency meeting of Belfast City Council to bring together agencies that can save the shipyard and preserve this skills base,” he said.

Protest at Belfast shipyard
Tommy Stewart has been foreman ship repair fitter at Harland and Wolff for 30 years (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We stand in solidarity with the workers and we’re going to do all we can to help.

“I want to pay tribute to the workers who have waged a fierce campaign to save their yard and to their union representatives who have taken the fight to the very top of the political agenda.

“The shipyard is a remarkable story of diversification. From a mighty history as a premier location for an old industry, it is now at the cutting edge of green technology and innovation as the site of assembly for huge wind turbines. That story can’t be lost.

@sdlpcllrHeading and Greens call emergency meeting of Belfast CityCouncil SDLP Belfast Councillor Brian Heading and Green PartyCouncillor Anthony Flynn have called an emergency meeting of Belfast CityCouncil to support Harland and Wolff workers. pic.twitter.com/erVwZ28Zd2

— Cllr Brian Heading (@sdlpcllrHeading) July 31, 2019

“We’re hoping to secure cross-party support for this proposal. These workers and this city deserves nothing less.”

The meeting will take place at 1.30pm on Friday.

The Harland and Wolff yard, which helped define the city’s industrial past, has been up for sale amid serious financial problems at its Norwegian parent company.

The yard employs around 130 people and works on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Its two huge cranes dominate the east Belfast skyline but its peak period as an employment powerhouse was during the Second World War.

The last ship built there was the Anvil Point in 2003.

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