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THE announcement of a huge £100m (€120m) Coca-Cola manufacturing plant in Antrim signifies the soft drink giant's decision to move their central operations to the North, away from the Republic.

Political leaders have said that the plant will provide long-term economic benefits for the North. First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the Lisburn facility has safeguarded almost 400 jobs.

But Mr McGuinness denied the announcement was a blow to Coca-Cola employees in the Republic. He said that large multinational companies make their own economic decisions.

"Particularly now at a time of particular economic hardship we have seen a decision taken to centralise all of their Ireland operations here in Co Antrim, in Lisburn," he said.

"I think that's obviously a very positive development from our point of view in terms of developing the economy and providing much needed employment."

Mr Robinson said: "This site will now demonstrate internationally the strength of the local food and drink sector and our world-class manufacturing capabilities," he said.

In 2005, Coca-Cola announced its decision to consolidate production from its plants in Drogheda, Co Louth, Naas Road, Dublin, and Lambeg, Antrim, to a new site at Knockmore Hill, Lisburn.

And then, in 2007, 256 jobs were lost with the closure of the Drogheda site.


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