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Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Software centre plans under fire

New software centre will eventually employ 150 people

Plans by a big American defence systems company to set up a software centre in Northern Ireland have come under criticism.

Raytheon, the firm which builds Tomahawk cruise missiles, has confirmed it will be creating 150 jobs in Londonderry over a three year period.

It will begin recruitment for its new computer software centre as soon as a site is found.

But the Derry-based campaign group, the Pat Finucane Centre, has hit out at the plans.

They say it is disturbing that both SDLP leader John Hume and the province's First Minister David Trimble, the latest winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, should welcome an industry dependent on war.

Concern over contracts

Spokesman, Paul O'Connor, claims there is also concern that contracts are to be carried out for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

"The MoD have been actively involved in the legal battle to gain anonymity for the soldiers on Bloody Sunday and now we are going to have people working in a factory in this city to supply contracts for the MoD," he said.

"Now that's very problematic. I don't think the peace dividend should be built on fuelling the arms trade which is already causing such misery worldwide."

Earlier, the chairman and chief executive of Raytheon, Daniel Burnham, said that among the attractions of the north west of the province was the pool of talented software graduates provided by the two main universities.

He said Derry had the calibre of graduates his company needed.

Mr Burnham said the new centre would support a variety of the company's electronics programmes, including air traffic control systems and an £800m airborne radar system known as ASTOR, awarded recently by the Ministry of Defence.

Additional jobs

Raytheon has confirmed it is also bidding on a new air-to-air missile system which could create up to 500 additional jobs for Northern Ireland.

The British Government's recently appointed political development minister, George Howarth, said it was one of the most significant high-tech investments ever in the province.

The company expect to have more than a dozen workers in place by the end of the year and the number should reach 150 over the next three years.

Raytheon also has links with Shorts in Belfast and its Canadian parent company, Bombardier.

The ASTOR system will be carried on a modified Bombardier business jet, large parts of which will be made in Belfast.

Raytheon said they were pushing ahead faster with their Derry software project as a result of the successful bid for ASTOR.

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