O’Neill’s closure ‘a devastating blow’

SHUT UP SHOP!. . . .The scene last night at O'Neill Builders Yard, in Pennyburn Industrial Estate. 2511JM05
SHUT UP SHOP!. . . .The scene last night at O'Neill Builders Yard, in Pennyburn Industrial Estate. 2511JM05

The closure of one of Derry’s best-known building firms has been described as a “devastating blow” by a local MLA.

24 employees lost their jobs with the closure of O’Neill’s which was announced yesterday. The firm had been in operation for 55 years and was involved in the construction of some of Derry’s best known buildings.

Speaking after the announcement, Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said he was saddened by the news. “O’Neill’s have been a long standing family business in Derry for over 50 years providing worthwhile employment. Like many local construction firms in the Northwest they have found it very difficult to trade in very harsh economic conditions but done their best to continue to provide employment.

“My thoughts are with the employees who have lost their jobs - they and their families have been dealt a devastating blow just a few weeks from Christmas. It’s critically important that they get all the support needed from the relevant government agencies,” he said.

Mr McCartney also called on banks, who he added had been bailed out by taxpayers - to help struggling firms in order to avoid more closures.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan described the closure of the Pennyburn firm as a “terrible loss.”

“It marks a terrible loss to the local economy when a landmark firm like O’Neill Brothers, who have built landmark buildings in Derry and beyond, has to close.

“We have to feel for all the workers who have been hit with this terrible news coming up to Christmas. “The decision forced on the company is no reflection on their talents or commitment.

“We also have to feel for Phelim O’Neill who had to take this step in the face of the terrible business climate for the construction sector,” he said.

Mr Durkan called on the government to intervene to assist firms in the construction industry.

“O’Neill Brothers has always been a family firm who have extended that family spirit to their workforce. They have also served their customers well and have adorned this city with quality work.

“The banking and financial crisis over the last few years obviously provides the backdrop to this closure but more could and should be done with government interventions to support the construction sector.

“The fact is that measures have been deployed in both Scotland and Wales using devolution to provide job-keeping contracts to construction firms,” he said.