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Workers vow to remain at Harland & Wolff as administrators move in

Workers say they will remain at the east Belfast site. Credit: Pacemaker

Workers at Harland & Wolff shipyard say they will remain at the site until a solution is found to secure its future.

Administrators are due to lodge papers at Belfast High Court on Tuesday morning after a buyer could not be found for the struggling firm.

Its parent company Dolphin Drilling has been in serious financial trouble, leading to ongoing concern among workers and fears for jobs.

Workers have occupied the site since last Monday as part of a high-profile campaign to save the yard.

They emerged from a meeting chanting "Save our shipyard" on Monday before confirming the outcome of the vote.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell addressed workers on Monday afternoon. Credit: Pacemaker

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell met with representatives at the shipyard ahead of the meetings and claimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson had failed the shipyard workers in his first real test as leader of the country.

"We know this is a viable concern, we know the Government has naval contracts it can put here to ensure the long-term future," he said.

"We know there are contracts out there, but it just needs support from the Government.

"I am saying to Boris Johnson very specifically he can't stand on the sidelines."

Workers broke out in a round of applause when a union official suggested that if the DUP did not make the ultimatum to the Government, then workforce representatives would stand against them in future elections.

Some, including steel worker Joe Passmore, met with members of the DUP at Stormont following earlier meetings.

"The workforce have told us they wish to continue with the occupation of this plant until such times as we find a way to continue shipbuilding and heavy industry in Belfast," said Mr Passmore.

He added that the occupation would continue for "as long as it takes".

Speaking to UTV Live, the DUP's East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said after meeting with Harland and Wolff, he believes there's "work to be had".

He said: "That's why we are pushing for that financial space and that window - ultimately it hasn't happened today, but that's not going to stop the efforts to work with the administrators and secure the future we know Harland & Wolff should have."

Workers have called on the Government to step in to rescue the operation, potentially through nationalisation.

But the Government has declined to intervene, insisting the issue is a commercial one.

Around 125 jobs are at risk at the east Belfast shipyard. Credit: Pacemaker

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said: "The Secretary of State is concerned to see the position of Harland & Wolff, and he understands the impact such uncertainty has on employees and their families.

"Since taking office, the Secretary of State has held conversations with a number of stakeholders, including Invest NI and the local MP, to understand the background and current situation facing the company.

"He has worked with them to explore a number of options, including various funding options, none of which were viable.

"Today he is speaking to partners across Whitehall and in Northern Ireland, including the Department for the Economy and Invest NI, on the next steps to help those affected.

"The Secretary of State has made it clear that he will continue to do everything he can to secure the future of this historic site and ensure workers’ interests are protected during this difficult time, and he has agreed that the NIO will play a full part in the City Council's manufacturing forum to examine growth opportunities for the sector in Belfast."

  • VIDEO: Judith Hill reports from the shipyard