Northern Ireland

Shackleton Barracks: Jobs hope as MJM Group agrees to buy former military base

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Media captionThe Shackleton site was given free to the Northern Ireland Executive by the Ministry of Defence in 2011

The MJM Group has agreed to buy the former Shackleton Barracks military base in Ballykelly, County Londonderry.

The firm, based in Newry, County Down, specialises in the fit-out of cruise ships and yachts.

It intends to use the Shackleton site for a new business fitting out private planes which it said will create an initial 100 jobs.

A spokesperson added MJM has a vision to expand that to more than 1,000 jobs as the 621 acre site is developed.

Shackleton was sold by the Northern Ireland Executive, which inherited the site from the Ministry of Defence.

'Enormous opportunity'

Aside from fitting out planes, MJM is planning a rail carriage fit-out facility and an IT services centre .

Jarlath Quinn, the group chief executive, said: "Other business ventures under serious consideration by us is the development of a 60MW solar farm at a cost of £60m.

"In addition, we could also continue to facilitate the use of the site by film crews and would accommodate other business proposals from interested parties to help further develop the site to help achieve its full potential."

MJM is paying £1m for the site and fully developing it will take an investment many times that amount.

The group founder and chairman Brian McConville said the site presented an "enormous opportunity" which will benefit the local community.

"Growth is a must for our 'can do' attitude in the company, we must continue to grow" he said.

Image caption Entrepreneur Brian McConville, who started his working life as a carpenter, founded MJM in Rathfriland, County Down, in 1983 and said it has now become a "global brand"

"By being awarded the Shackleton deal, this allows us now to create further facilities for the group to grow and expand on their worldwide trade for more business."

'Massive investment'

Mr McConville added that he was taken aback by the existing facilities on the site, including aircraft hangers and a runway, which his company will use for its new private planes venture.

"It's pre-built, it's all sitting there. We were amazed to see such a facility," he said.

"The group has planned, in the years going forward, a massive investment in the area, we're going to create a lot of jobs."

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said MJM has committed to providing a refurbished community building and outdoor recreation facilities.

He said proposals made by other bidders could also come to fruition.

"MJM Group will now develop the site so some of the other initial sale proposals could well be part of their plans, depending on commercial discussions and negotiations."

Another part of the Shackleton site is due to become the new headquarters of the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development.

That project received planning permission earlier this week.

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