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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Landmark factory demolished
Mackies Foundry
Mackies Foundry was once a symbol of industrial strength
A landmark factory in west Belfast is being demolished.

The diggers have moved in to tear down Mackies Foundry.

However, the government hopes that a 26m overhaul of the former engineering complex on the Springfield Road could create more than 700 jobs.

Mackies is one of Northern Ireland's oldest employers.

At one time, it was a symbol of industrial strength as its textiles machinery was sold around the world.

However, Mackies was also a symbol of division with an almost exclusively Protestant workforce in the middle of a Catholic area.

New beginning

More recently, the firm's modern factory, located on the peaceline, became symbolic of a new Northern Ireland and won a place in history when US President Bill Clinton visited the site.

But the factory did not prosper and, in 1999, the receivers were called in.

Stormont enterprise minister Ian Pearson said a business park on the old site could attract up to 770 new jobs to the area.

The project is being spearheaded by the government funded jobs agency Invest NI.

"I am confident that today's announcement, together with the recent establishment of the new Employment Services Board, will play a key part in improving the economic prospects of the people of west Belfast," Mr Pearson said.

West Belfast MP Gerry Adams said: "At present north and west Belfast are two of the most deprived constituencies in the six counties with high levels of unemployment and a growing youth population.

"I believe we need to realise the potential of this investment."

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