Northern Ireland

Hollywood actor Liam Neeson backs Ballymena jobs rally

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Media captionHollywood actor Liam Neeson urges people to attend the rally on Saturday

Liam Neeson has backed a campaign to help his home town of Ballymena, County Antrim, recover from major job losses.

The Hollywood actor, who was made a freeman of the town in 2013, is urging people to attend a rally there on Saturday organised by the Unite union.

Almost 2,000 people will lose their jobs when Michelin and JTI Gallaher close.

The actor is taking part in a special advertisement to promote the town.

He says: "Hello I'm Liam Neeson, a proud Ballymena man.

"I'm backing the demand for jobs and investment in Ballymena.

"I'm asking you to attend the rally for a future at the Ballymena bandstand at noon on the 6th of February. Please be there."

Image caption The Michelin factory in the town is to close in 2018

Last November, it was announced that the Michelin tyre factory in the town would close in 2018 with the loss of 860 jobs.

It was the second major jobs blow to the town in just over a year.

In October 2014, cigarette maker JTI Gallaher announced it would be shutting its plant in the town with the loss of 800 jobs.

Redundancies there are expected to begin in May 2016 and the factory will shut down completely in 2017.

Suzan Fitzgerald, of Unite, said there was widespread support for the rally.

"Unite, the union, is very conscious of what's at stake here, so we weren't a bit shy about asking for support from Liam Neeson and from other people in the town," she said.

"Liam Neeson has been fulsome in his enthusiasm for getting a big turnout tomorrow.

"It's not just big names like Liam Neeson, we've received support from young people, from communities, from people in the area and that's been every bit as important, more important in fact.

"We can't tolerate any more job losses, we won't tolerate the idea that there's no future for young people in this town."

Image caption The town has suffered a number of economic blows recently

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