MLAs discuss creamery future

William Irwin MLA, D�vid Simpson MP, Simon Hamilton Minister for the Economy, Carla Lockhart MLA
William Irwin MLA, D�vid Simpson MP, Simon Hamilton Minister for the Economy, Carla Lockhart MLA

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart has welcomed an assurance by the Economy Minister Simon Hamilton that there is funding available from Invest NI to assist with investment at the former Fane Valley creamery, in Banbridge.

The creamery which was purchased by Lakeland Dairies has introduced a seasonal working campaign. Following an invite from Carla Lockhart Mr Hamilton visited the area in the days after the announcement.

In response to an Assembly question from the DUP MLA he stated that at the meeting there was no indication that the premises were under threat and whilst redundancies were unfortunately inevitable a skeleton workforce would be retained and there was a desire long term to keep the site open.

The Upper Bann MLA thanked the minister for his continued support for both the staff that left the business but also those that remain. She said: “It is key to the future of the creamery that a pot of money is available from Invest NI and it would be absurd if this was not utilised by the owners. I’m devastated for the workers on the site. It is heartbreaking to see so many long term workers being made redundant because of the change in working patterns. Unfortunately a private company have the final say with regards to their business model and as a result the people of Banbridge have been left bereft of a business that has operated for many years and created so much local employment. I will be continuing to work to try and ensure the long term sustainability of the site.”

The future of production at the Armaghdown Creameries facility in the town was debated during questions to the Economy Minister in the Assembly Chamber on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking in the Chamber local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson raised the concerns of local employees and their families.

Commenting Mrs Dobson said: “I have spoken with many of the staff affected and share the concerns in the community that, despite previous assurances from the company, production is unlikely to return to the plant.

“During Minister Hamilton’s response it emerged that 57 of the 70 employees have now taken voluntary redundancy and a further three have been ‘redeployed.’ This is deeply sad news and involves the loss by this company of decades of experience, loyalty and commitment to dairy production in Banbridge.”