The next 24 hours are critical to save 1,200 jobs at risk at Wrightbus, as negotiations progress with a single prospective buyer, the union Unite has said.
The bus-maker crashed into administration a fortnight ago, making all of its employees redundant. The announcement came as a shock to the community in Ballymena, which has previously seen the collapse of other crucial industries such as Michelin and Gallahers.
Last week it emerged that four parties had shown interest in the firm, and now it appears negotiations are progressing with Jo Bamford, the son of billionaire owner of JCB, Lord Bamford.
Unite, which is representing workers, says the only barrier to a deal to reopen the gates at the site and allow the workforce back is land ownership.
On Wednesday delegations of workers have been putting pressure on local politicians to publicly call for former owner of the firm Jeff Wright to hand over the land.
Unite Regional Officer for Wrightbus, George Brash, warned that there was now a real urgency in regards to resolving the issue.
“We need more than warm words from our local political representatives - we need deeds. The workers will be demanding that all local political representatives come out publicly today and demand that Jeff Wright hand over the land," he said.
When asked if he was making a direct appeal to Jeff Wright, DUP MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley responded: “I am making the appeal, yes absolutely.
“It’s absolutely critical that everyone recognises what’s at stake here, that there’s no more days left in this, no more weeks, we can’t wake up next week and think ‘well now we can do the deal’.
“Today is the last day for doing this deal, and getting this over the line and getting these jobs saved. I am appealing to all those involved to make sure that this happens.”