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First Minister praises 'world-leading' hydrogen energy vision during visit to Wrightbus

Ian Paisley MP, Jo Bamford and Buta Atwal (Wrightbus) and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy

First Minister Arlene Foster has heralded the potential of hydrogen energy to deliver benefits for the wider Northern Ireland economy when she visited Wrightbus in Ballymena this week.

Pointing to the company’s ‘world-leading technology’ and its vision for developing the energy source, the First Minister said engagement with the Westminster Government on a hydrogen bus strategy for the whole of the UK is continuing.

Speaking after her visit to Ballymena, Arlene Foster said:

“It has been a difficult period for Wrightbus, with the COVID pandemic hitting so quickly after the business was sold. However, the company is a key part of the local economy, and an example of how Northern Ireland can produce world-leading technology. “There is obvious potential for hydrogen power within buses and I know that colleagues have been pressing the Government at Westminster to bring forward a hydrogen bus strategy for the whole of the UK.

“Whilst everyone recognises the importance of reducing Carbon emissions, securing an energy supply where we could be self-sufficient is hugely important. “It was very useful to hear the company’s vision for how hydrogen energy could be developed and used more widely in Northern Ireland.

“Whilst there are many huge challenges facing us as we seek to rebuild the economy after COVID-19 I know that colleagues such as the Environment Minister have also outlined the potential that a ‘green growth’ strategy can offer. “With world-leading technology already sited here in Northern Ireland there is the potential to see not just environmental but economic benefits growing around this.”

Wrightbus Chief Executive, Buta Atwal, said:

“It was a pleasure to show the First Minister just why Wrightbus is at the forefront of the hydrogen economy, and we are grateful for her support.

"Everyone here is committed to delivering a world-leading product which not only creates skilled jobs in Northern Ireland but creates a long-lasting legacy for Wrightbus in this region."

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, meanwhile, added:

“We have a very real opportunity to position Northern Ireland on a global stage by embracing hydrogen fuel and maximising the significant economic and environmental benefits it will deliver.

"By producing hydrogen locally, we would secure sizeable investment in this area, create jobs, boost our supply chain and really put ourselves on the world map for innovation and manufacturing excellence.”