Former workers from Northern Ireland bus manufacturer Wrightbus will protest on Sunday outside the church they partly blame for last week’s closure of the plant.

The company in Ballymena, Co Antrim, which has supplied red Routemaster buses to London, was put into administration last week with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Laid-off workers say they are angry over donations made to the evangelical Green Pastures church by the bus firm’s owners, the Wright family, in the years leading up to its financial collapse.

The Irish Times newspaper has reported the Cornerstone Group Limited, which controls Wrights Group, donated more than £16 million to the church between 2010 and 2017.

Routemaster replacement
Then London mayor Boris Johnson unveils a life-size mock-up of the new hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus for London (Lewis Whyld/PA)

Cornerstone gave £4.15 million to the church in 2017 alone, the year it made a pre-tax loss of £1.7 million, the paper said.

Wrightbus is owned by Jeff Wright, son of the bus company’s founder William Wright.

Mr Wright is also the majority shareholder in Cornerstone, and the founder, director, and senior pastor of the Green Pastures church.

Former employees will protest outside the church from 11am, saying they are disturbed so much money was donated to Green Pastures rather than invested in the flagging bus firm.

“I’m angry,” former Wrightbus employee Glenn Kennedy told the newspaper, while stressing Sunday’s protest would be peaceful.

“We have to show the families that have been ruined by this.”

Another laid-off worker, David Robinson, said: “It’s totally disgusting. If you run a business, it’s about making a profit.

“The company was making a loss. It wasn’t his (Jeff Wright’s) money to give away.”

Wrightbus administration fears
Workers gather outside the gates of the Wrightbus plant (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Wright says his family has faced death threats over the closure.

“There have been sinister developments involving threats to the life of Wright family members and I am asking all elected representatives and those with influence in the community to help end this intimidation and fear,” he said.

He added: “The closure of our family business has been devastating to our loyal and highly skilled workforce and the loss of the company my father and I have grown and nurtured for over 70 years has been shattering for our family.

“Generations of families have worked alongside our own family over all these years and so this is deeply and personally felt by everyone.

“We are here to provide our administrators, Deloittes, with all information, order books, financial records and whatever is needed to establish a future plan for the bus manufacturing operation.”