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Politicians need to focus on impact of job losses

While the talks grind on at Stormont with no apparent sign of a positive outcome, we can only wonder how much attention is being focused on the consequences for the Northern Ireland economy if there is no agreement.

It must be acknowledged that even a fully functioning assembly will not have all the answers to our many problems but at least it would provide a structure for strategic direction, ministerial decision-making and accountability to the public.

As we face the enormous challenges presented by Brexit and adjust to whatever trade arrangements are agreed by the British government as a result of that process, people are entitled to ask - who is looking after the north's interests and why should businesses invest in a place which does not have a working administration?

These are pertinent questions in a week that has seen hundreds of job losses with serious repercussions for workers and their families as well as the wider economy.

There was devastating news on Tuesday when water technology provider Williams Industrial Services (WIS), which employed 145 people in Mallusk, Co Antrim, was placed in administration.

WIS is one of the largest firms of its kind in Ireland and its closure, said to be because it 'ran out of funds' after encountering a number of commercial issues on some of its key contracts, came as a shock to workers who faced immediate redundancy.

On a bleak day for local manufacturing, Schlumberger, which constructs equipment used in the oil and gas industry, confirmed the loss of 205 jobs at its Newtownabbey operation.

There are also fears over staff reductions at NIE Networks while the planned closure of Kilroot power station could put almost 300 jobs at risk.

These are difficult and uncertain times for hundreds of people who will be asking what political leaders are doing to help them as they face the loss of their livelihoods.

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