Northern Ireland news

Up to £20m has been 'expended' in Wrightbus over the last year

 Jeff Wright was speaking yesterday after Wrightbus went into administration resulting in around 1,200 job loses.
Connla Young

UP to £20 million has been “expended” in Wrightbus over the last year it has been claimed.

Jeff Wright was speaking yesterday after Wrightbus went into administration resulting in around 1,200 job loses.

As well as running the former Wrightbus empire, the businessman is also is a pastor at Green Pastures Church, which is based in Galgorm, near Ballymena.

It emerged last week that up to £15m had been donated by Wrightbus to the church in recent years.

Up to 500 people gathered outside the church ahead of a morning service yesterday to highlight their anger.

Speaking during the service Mr Wright appeared at times to be tearful as he defended his silence to date and confirmed attempts are still being made to find a buyer.

“There have been some very horrendous things said about me actually for years and perhaps about my silence thus far,” he said.

“By people who really don’t know me - experts on Jeff Wright.

Protesters gathered outside Green Pastures Church near Ballymena yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus.

“But I have learned from dad that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent especially since there are still some great people working very, very hard to not just keep the delicate negotiations alive but also to try and to try and bring new investor(s) to the table.

Read More: Analysis: What next for workers at Wrightbus

“And then we can receive all that help from government that has been promised to this great company.”

Mr Wright insisted he will do nothing to damage talks.

Protest outside Green Pastures Church, Galgorm Industrial Estate, Ballymena. Picture by Ann McManus.

“But I refuse to publically jeopardise the delicate nature of those ongoing talks and negotiations that could destroy the last chances of saving the workforce, the staff and all the local suppliers,” he said.

“Even if it frustrates so many and costs me my reputation with others but my heart for this company and its people and the evangelical trust that owns roughly a third of the shares of this company, whose purpose is to advance the evangelical Christian/Christianity.

“We do not do religion, we do relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Wrightbus staff t-shirts hanging from a fence surrounding Green Pastures Church yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus.

The pastor explained that around £20m had been “expended” on the company over the past 12 months.

“We remain as committed as ever, which is demonstrated by the fact that we have expended £20m of resources in that company in the last year to keep it and to keep its people together and pay until a buyer could be found.

“My heart for the company and its people mean more to me than the vicious comments and the intimidation that my family have received in the last week.”

Wrightbus founder, Sir William Wright, leaving the Green Pastures Church yesterday . Picture by Ann McManus.

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