Film stars Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt have backed a rally for the future of their home town of Ballymena as almost two thousand jobs, including 800 at the Londonderry-founded Gallaher’s tobacco, are set to be moved from Northern Ireland to plants in Eastern Europe and Britain.
Regional Secretary of Unite, Jimmy Kelly called on the public to come out in large numbers to show their support for “Rally For A Future” after the campaign received celebrity endorsement by Ballymena star, Liam Neeson OBE: “We are honoured that Liam has taken the time out from his busy schedule to produce a video message calling for attendance for Saturday’s Rally in Ballymena.
“Saturday is a chance for everyone to lend their voice to the call for action to secure investment and much needed jobs for the town.
“This campaign – an initiative taken and led by workers facing redundancy in Michelin and JTI-Gallaher – has won the backing of stars like Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as well as securing the support of the Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, sports clubs and training agencies based in the town.
“Ahead of Saturday’s rally, there is a real surge in support for the demand for our Ministers and those charged with responsibility for economic development to act and secure the jobs that are desperately needed”, Mr Kelly concluded.
Japan Tobacco International (JTI), the owner of the under-threat Gallaher plant, announced in late 2014 that it would close Lisnafillan, and Wervik, Belgium, with production moving to other facilities, potentially in Poland and Romania.
Gallaher’s tobacco was founded in Londonderry in 1857 by the teenage Tom Gallaher who sold hand rolled cigarettes around the city from a hand cart. By 1896, his Belfast tobacco factory was the largest in the world.
The company was taken over in 2007 by JTI.