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Titanic shipyard Harland and Wolff to go into administration

Harland and Wolff workers and supporters during a rally to save the shipyard (Liam McBurney/PA)
Harland and Wolff workers and supporters during a rally to save the shipyard (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Belfast shipyard famous for building the Titanic is set to go into administration later.

Harland and Wolff, one of Northern Ireland’s most historic brands, is facing closure after its trouble-hit Norwegian parent company Dolphin Drilling failed to find a buyer.

Workers have occupied the site since last Monday as part of a high-profile campaign to save the yard, which is due to formally cease trading at 5.15pm on Monday.

Protest at Belfast shipyard
Workers have occupied the site, which employed 30,000 people in Belfast in its heyday (Rebecca Black/PA)

The shipbuilder, whose famous yellow cranes Samson and Goliath dominate the Belfast skyline, employed more than 30,000 people during Belfast’s industrial heyday, but now the workforce only numbers around 125.

It has diversified away from shipbuilding in the last two decades and until recently had primarily worked on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Famed for building the doomed White Star liner Titanic, which sank on its maiden transatlantic voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg, Harland and Wolff was one of the UK’s key industrial producers during the Second World War, supplying almost 150 warships.

Workers have called on the Government to step in to rescue the operation, potentially through nationalisation.

But the Government has declined to intervene, insisting the issue is a commercial one.

Officials insist that EU State Aid rules limit the scope to offer financial support through public funds.

Speculation around potential eleventh-hour bidders has so far proved unfounded, with no-one tabling an offer to stave off administration.

Workers are due to meet this afternoon when they will decide whether to continue the occupation and prevent administrators accessing the site.

Protest at Belfast shipyard
Harland and Wolff workers and supporters in the public gallery of Belfast City Hall (Liam McBurney/PA)

They will also meet DUP leader Arlene Foster at Stormont to discuss the situation.

Barry Reid, shop steward with the GMB union and a Harland and Wolff steel worker, questioned the contention that EU state aid rules prevented Government intervention.

“It’s a waiting game today, we are waiting to hear news,” he said.

“The Government keeps quoting European law – that’s all we get out of them, European law. It’s very strange when on October 31 we are out of Europe, so why are they hiding behind European law when they don’t want to believe in European law?”