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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Dismay as brewery closes
Bass and Tennent's Lager are brewed and kegged at the plant
The closure of a west Belfast brewery with the loss of 85 jobs is a disappointment, the Northern Ireland economy minister has said.

The owners of the Bass Ireland Ulster Brewery said it had failed to find a buyer for its manufacturing facility.

In a statement on Tuesday, Interbrew UK said it had been seeking a purchaser after a long-term contract to bottle soft drinks at the plant ended.

The closure in January will bring 107 years of brewing at the Glen Road site to an end.

The biggest private employer in an area of high unemployment, the factory was also one of the few workplaces where Catholics and Protestants worked side by side throughout the Troubles.

Other operations on the site, which employs 200 people in areas such as distribution and customer services, and a sales and distribution depot in Omagh, County Tyrone, will not be affected.

Northern Ireland Office minister Barry Gardiner said he was disappointed at the decision.

We believe that this decision fails the needs of the community and the workforce
Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein leader

Mr Gardiner, who has responsibility for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said Invest Northern Ireland was continuing to discuss the situation with Interbrew and Bass Ireland to attempt to minimise the impact the decision will have for the workers and the economy.

Brian Houston, of Bass Ireland, said it was a sad day.

"The business plans that we looked at, along with our insistence that the terms and conditions for our employees be transferred over, just made the whole operation unviable in our opinion," he said.

"No purchaser has emerged, regrettably, so we have had to announce the closure of manufacturing as from December."

David Randall, Interbrew UK supply chain director said the conclusion of the bottling contract had resulted in increased costs.

He added that this, along with a general overcapacity within the industry, "meant that a viable manufacturing operation would no longer be sustainable".

The company says it hopes to offer redeployment to about 20 of the workers losing their jobs.

Sinn Fein President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams was also disappointed by the decision.

"We believe that this decision fails the needs of the community and the workforce," he said.

SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood said the decision was a tragic blow to the local community.

"I plan to meet with the management in the near future," he said.

The brewery was founded in 1897 and brews and kegs Bass and Tennent's Lager, and kegs Stella Artois.

BBC NI's Rosy Billingham:
"Despite the intervention of west Belfast politicians, the Bass brewery is closing down"

Talks over brewery sell-off
08 Jul 04  |  Northern Ireland
Interbrew weighs brewery closures
03 May 04  |  Business
Interbrew 'needs fewer breweries'
30 Apr 04  |  Business
Higher beer prices boost brewer
28 Apr 04  |  Business

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