Donegal juice company linked to bid to bring 200 jobs to historic Tyrone mill site

Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills in 2004. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Ryan McAleer

TWO historic listed buildings in counties Tyrone and Down significantly damaged in separate fires have been linked to major investment plans.

Donegal juice company Mulrines is understood to closing on a deal to establish a new base at the Herdman's Mill site in Sion Mills, Co Tyrone, while in Kilkeel, Mourne Park House, which was ravaged by a 2013 blaze, could soon be turned into a new luxury hotel.

Ballybofey-based Mulrines is understood to be in advanced talks on the potential to bring around 200 jobs to Sion Mills in an effort set up a post-Brexit base in the north.

The mill, which dates back to the mid-19th century, was once a major centre of the textile industry in the north west, employing around 1,000 people.

It finally closed in 2004 and was later bought by Strabane lottery winner Margaret Loughrey.

The older set of buildings have been set ablaze on a number of occasions in recent years.

One of the recent blazes at Herdman's Mill.

In business since 1919, Mulrines has a workforce of around 160. The company is believed to be interested in a more modern part of the Herdman's site.

While the juice company said it does not comment on deals while negotiations are ongoing, West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan has been involved in the talks process over the past 18 months.

He told the Tyrone Herald that the Donegal company remains “excited” by the proposal, adding that Ms Loughrey’s company Ray Mill Ltd had been working hard for a positive outcome.

“I have full faith that this deal will be completed soon,” said the MLA. “The main priority for me has been creating much needed local jobs while also preserving the rich history of Sion Mills along with its sporting facilities.”

Meanwhile, the listed Mourne Park House could soon become the site of a new hotel, spa and restaurant.

The Co Down stately home, which dates back to the 16th century, was the ancestral home of the earls of Kilmorey.

Current owner Martion Needham Russell is behind the hotel bid. She also owns the surrounding 140-acre estate, which adjoins Kilkeel’s 18-hole championship golf course.

Marion Needham Russell pictured at Mourne Park House in 2008. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The hotel plan date back more than seven years, but was put on hold after the central block was gutted by a blaze in May 2013.

A pre-planning process was completed last year. In recent days a full planning application was submitted to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

It seeks permission for a new luxury hotel incorporating a spa, function room and. Restaurant.

However, it’s unclear whether the investment is yet in place to advance the project.

A statement on the Mourne Park Estate website reads: “Since the fire, we have done everything we can to preserve the structure of the building; removing, storing and shoring up where necessary. We are absolutely committed to seeing the restoration of Mourne Park once again and have open minds as to how this would be achieved.

“The rebuild is currently on hold until the right person or group comes forward to claim the opportunity.”

Firefighters survey the damage at Mourne Park House in 2013. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.


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