NORTHERN IRELAND/Lear jet failure puts pressure on government

Political pressure is building on the British government to rescue public money that it invested in the Lear Fan executive jet project, which recently collapsed. The British government sank an estimated 57 million into the joint British-American venture by Lear Fan Ltd. The government, which was severely criticized earlier for the loss of almost 100 million in the De Lorean sports car debacle, is now under pressure to salvage as much as it can from the shut-down. The British government had hoped to provide an eventual 1,250 jobs through the firm.

The collapse of the project comes as a blow to the violence-torn province of Northern Ireland, where the unemployment rate is now over 20 percent.

If the British government is ever to recoup its losses from the project, it must retain ownership rights to the jet's advanced technology. The plane was to be made by bonding layers of carbon fiber together, making it both light and fuel efficient.

The Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland holds the rights on design and prototypes for six months. But when this period ends, a foreign entrepreneur could further develop the project without having to pay for the previous development costs.

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