Docks stand-off

POLICE negotiators were drafted in from Belfast yesterday as a man protesting against losing his job lay in danger on loose grain in the hold of a ship at Lisahally Docks.

It is understood Gavin McDermott, 37, a former dockhand from St Eithne in Springtown, entered the docklands yesterday morning (Tuesday), and made his way into the hold of the ship, where he began his one-man stand-off in opposition to the failure of his appeal against being laid off in August.

Amid fears he could be buried under the grain, police were notified of the man's precarious position, and boarded the cargo ship, the Lugano Basel, shortly after 1.15pm, when they began negotiating with Mr McDermott.

Almost six hours later, the protestor left the ship.

Mr McDermott claimed during the protest that it was unfair that casual workers had been employed to do his job.

"We appealed the decision but had no success," he said. "Other workers have been brought in to do my work. I decided to do something about it and made my way to the cargo hold of the ship. The Port know that I'm here. While I stay in the cargo hold they can't get in to unload the grain and animal feed that's been stored here.

"I intend to stay here - I'll not be moving."

Mr McDermott's wife, Frances arrived at the docks after 2pm, and said her husband had been 'distraught' since being laid off in August.

Visibly distressed, Mrs McDermott said at the scene: "Gavin was a docker and he and his brother had been employed full-time there for nearly two years, but they were made redundant in August. It was so unexpected.

"He is lying on loose grain. He had his appeal against redundancy two weeks ago because he felt he was not properly involved at the start. Generations of Gavin's family have been employed out here including his mother's father and his father's father, and now that's all been taken away from him, and he's not even getting a shout for the casual work - which he had been doing for the past 17 years," she said.

She continued: "They said they had to make him redundant because of cutbacks, him and his brother.

"He is not sleeping.

"He got a letter out yesterday morning saying the appeal had not been successful and wishing him all the best for the future.

"He loved that job and he had a young family and car payments and everything else and now that's all been taken away," Mrs McDermott said.

A PSNI spokesperson last night confirmed that negotiators had been involved in the drama that unfolded at Lisahally yesterday: "A 37 year old male was arrested by police after he was removed from a ship at Lisahally docks earlier today.

"The male had unlawfully gained access to a restricted area on the ship at around 12.35pm.

"Police negotiators attended and the male was removed for his own safety at around 6pm."

Fire engines and an ambulance were tasked to the scene before negotiators talked Mr McDermott into leaving the ship.

It is understood he was strapped to a stretcher and pulled from the hold and then walked to a nearby police car, in which he was taken away.