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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 Feb 1971

Vol. 251 No. 10

Private Members' Business. - Closure of Messrs. J. & L.F. Goodbody, Ltd.: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann is of opinion that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should order an inquiry into the decision of the firm of Messrs. J. & L.F. Goodbody, Ltd., Clara, County Offaly, to close jute spinning at their long-established mills at Clara; that such inquiry be conducted by a senior officer of the Department of Industry and Commerce who shall investigate all aspects of the industry having regard to the amount of public money invested in same in recent years; that papers, persons and records be made available for such inquiry; and that the trade unions involved on behalf of the workers be permitted to give evidence thereat.

I move this motion, first of all, on behalf of the workers involved in this industry. As the Minister is aware this firm has been in business for a considerable number of years. At present there is a third generation of workers employed there. The dismissal notice given to these workers was very short. It left them with very little opportunity to obtain alternative employment. Many of them were advanced in years and this made it more difficult for them to find new employment. Because Gentex in Athlone closed down also, employment in this area is scarce. The workers should have had much longer notice of dismissal. There should have been much more consultation with the union and with the workers involved prior to the decision.

My second reason for moving this motion is the amount of public money that has been invested in this industry. I do not know the exact amount that was given by the Government by way of grants to this firm. Perhaps the Minister would let us know how much money was paid in grants to this firm in the last five years? Perhaps the Minister would also tell us for what reasons this money was given, for what part of the industry, and whether, in fact, all the money granted to this firm was to be used solely in the firm of Goodbody in Clara. This is important. The people of Clara are anxious to know that any Government money that was granted to this firm for Clara was in fact utilised in the Clara firm. A union official and people in the area are of the opinion that £150,000 by way of grants was given to this firm. If this sum was given in the last five years and the firm declared approximately 250 workers redundant within such a short space of time there certainly should be a Government inquiry. Dáil Eireann, the relevant Departments and the people of Ireland are entitled to know just where the money went. I cannot prove this figure but the Minister will have this information. I would like if he were in a position to give this information to the House this evening. I understand that some of this money has gone to the polypropylene section of this industry in Clara and I am pleased that this particular section. Which makes plastics, is working efficiently and at full capacity. I do not know what amount of the grants allocated to this firm went to polypropylene. I and many other people would like to know just what amount of this money went to this section of the industry in Clara.

A consultant's report has been commissioned privately by the firm in Clara and they have not, as far as I am aware, furnished a copy of the findings to the unions involved. I believe the Minister received a copy of this report but that it was given to him privately and he is not in a position to divulge its contents. The contents of this report would be of interest to all of us. If public money has been allocated to this firm, this report should be made available to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to the public at large and to the workers in the industry. This is something anybody would expect. The findings of this report should be made public. If this report had been furnished to the unions they might have been in a position at that stage to have discussions with the employers. The unions and the employers could have got together and discussed this report and the unions with the help of the employers might have been in a position to save more jobs in this industry. This would have been desirable but I am sorry to say that the unions' request for the report was refused. Indeed I understand the report was given to the Minister at very short notice.

If an inquiry is carried out as outlined in this motion one of the beneficial results would be to ensure that the Department of Industry and Commerce would have an opportunity of finding out exactly what was contained in the report. The Department would have an opportunity of studying the workings of the industry. The industry would benefit from an examination by the Department. The workers in Clara would know that the maximum number of jobs in this important industry in Clara was being kept open. They have heard that 250 to 300 workers will be kept on. A proper study could be made with particular reference to the fate of the employees. The employers and management would benefit from the expert guidance of the Department of Industry and Commerce.

A second reason for believing that an inquiry would be important is that the jute industry is closely allied with the worsted material and textile industry. The Minister, my two colleagues on the far side of the House, Deputy O.J. Flanagan and I represent a constituency which is involved in the jute and worsted industry. This industry is of the utmost importance to the five of us, to the people in Laois-Offaly and to those in the surrounding counties. One section of the employees of Salts of Tullamore are on short-time at present.

This has nothing to do with the motion about Clara.

I wanted to stress the importance of the inquiry which I have mentioned. The firm of Salts of Tullamore are almost ancillary to us. An inquiry on the lines I have mentioned might be beneficial to them also.

Is the Deputy suggesting an inquiry into Messrs. Salts? There is nothing about it in the motion.

No, I am not. The inquiry would be beneficial to Goodbody and also to ancillary industries. It would be of interest to all of us. It could be beneficial to the management and staff of Salts of Tullamore and to the worsted mills at Portlaoise if such an inquiry were carried out.

The Deputy wants a public inquiry into every company in Laois-Offaly?

If Deputy Connolly was listening to me——

Deputy Enright, without interruption.

Deputy Connolly will have an opportunity of speaking and I will not interrupt. If the Deputy will have the courtesy to let me finish I will afford him every opportunity to speak later. The inquiry would clearly benefit the management at Tullamore. They could see the results of the inquiry at Clara. They might be able to learn something from this inquiry which would be of assistance to them in their own industry.

We are all interested in this firm in Clara. We were sorry to see the workers becoming redundant. We must ensure that the maximum number of jobs are kept open. The people in Clara have an interest in this firm. Their families are involved in it. Their lives revolve around it. The Dáil must make every effort to ensure that these people are kept in employment.

It is important that the inquiry be carried out. It will give the Department of Industry and Commerce an opportunity of finding out what has happened. When I inquired from the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Colley, about this firm over a year ago I was told he was in close touch with this firm. We would like to know how so many employees became redundant. We would like to know how such short notice was given before the firm closed down and let 250 workers go. They are maintaining approximately 250 to 300 workers still. My reason for putting down this motion was to give the information that I have given because I believe the results ensuing from an inquiry would be beneficial to the workers in this firm and to the people in the surrounding areas. I would urge the Minister seriously to consider having this inquiry.

The motion has not been seconded.

Acting Chairman

Is anybody seconding the motion?

I do not know what exactly the order is but——

Acting Chairman

The motion has been moved but not seconded.

May I formally second the motion and keep what I have to say until some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies have contributed? I see all the Laois-Offaly Deputies here.

On a point of order, I understood that the motion had to be proposed and seconded. May a Deputy second it and reserve the right to speak?

It has been done.

Acting Chairman

Does Deputy O'Donovan wish to speak?

I was quite genuine in what I said. I see all three Fianna Fáil Laois-Offaly Deputies here showing great interest and I wanted to give them an opportunity to speak so that they would not be treading on one another's heels.

We are giving the older Member precedence.


There is no reason why one of the Government Deputies should not come in before me. I hope they will not get in one another's way afterwards.

It is quite obvious that the two Fine Gael Deputies will not get in each other's way. Where is Deputy Flanagan?

Acting Chairman

Will the Deputy come to the motion?

What is involved in the semi-closure of the firm of J. & L. F. Goodbody in Clara is the destruction of a community, and nothing else. What is concerning the people in the midlands—and it is no wonder that all the Fianna Fáil Deputies from the midlands are here—is that the midlands are rapidly becoming a really depressed area.

Was the Deputy down there?

I was down there more often than Deputy Power.


The Deputy is painting a picture of gloom.

The Deputy will know more about it before I am finished.

Acting Chairman

I am appealing to the Deputy to keep to Clara and the motion.

I enjoy a few interruptions.

Acting Chairman

They are not in order.

They may not be but it is no harm that we should have an occasional laugh in this serious House, particularly as there has been so much seriousness on the other side.

Let me say that this is no laughing matter and I object to the Deputy making a laugh of it.

It is not the Deputy who made a laugh of it, it is the Minister's party who made a laugh of it.


This matter was well on its way before even the Minister got on to it or before he or his predecessor did anything about it. The Minister is concerned about it because it is too close to his backdoor. As I said, the midlands are becoming one of the most depressed areas in the country and no amount of pretence by the Fianna Fáil Party or by way of transfer from Ballinasloe to Clara will deal with this matter. Clara was a happy town which had a long established industry and the people in it and in the surrounding areas were associated with that industry. The Minister could tell me, although I already know, what the complement of this firm was. It was the kind of complement that in a small town of that sort attracts workers from far outside the town. One could say that this situation is partly due to the replacement of jute sacking by plastic sacks but what has concerned many of the workers in the industry is that at the very time they were being told by the firm that this was the cause of the trouble the machinery was being transferred to Waterford. I do not know if the Minister or his colleagues know this but it is a fact. It is also true as Deputy Enright said that this firm got a substantial grant. Was this grant used by the firm to establish the business in Waterford? Waterford city is a developing area and the Clara area is a depressed area.

It is not a depressed area. The Deputy knows very little about it.


I seem to be causing a good deal of concern among the Fianna Fáil Party. As Deputy Enright said, workers have been there for three generations and there are many workers who are well on in life who cannot possibly be retrained for any other form of work. This is a most serious matter. In addition, for many months the workers had been trying to get a copy of the consultant's report from the firm but were not able to do so. Why? If people have nothing to hide why do they not disclose the facts? My understanding has been that this firm got a grant of £150,000. Even with the present spendthrift Government in office a grant of £150,000 is still quite a sizeable amount, despite the fact that its value is declining rapidly.

Let us consider a simple method of solving this problem. The importation of textile bags and sacks for the first 11 months of last year cost nearly £300,000. This amount would go a long way towards solving the problem, even with the advent of plastic sacks. I am well aware that the Minister is concerned about the situation because it is in his own backyard. However, if he and his colleagues were open-minded they would realise that what I say is true—that the midlands is becoming a depressed area. What about Athlone and Tullamore? They are much larger towns than Clara. Are they not depressed, is there not massive unemployment in both places?

That is correct.

It is all right for Deputies to try to shout me down when I make a good case——

We would not try to do that.

We are waiting for the Deputy to make a good case.

I hope when the Minister replies that he will make as good a case as I have done, but he will not. If Athlone, Tullamore and Moate were prosperous there would be some chance for the people employed at Clara because they could move out in different directions. The question of Goodbody's is not just the 1,500 people who live in this area. What is involved here is the destruction of a community —nothing less. We do not often see this happening in this country; normally it occurs over a long period of time but on this occasion it has happened within six months. It has suddenly blown up and I do not think that the Department of Industry and Commerce were wide awake to the situation.

This proposal I am seconding, that there should be an inquiry, is the least that would satisfy the people of the area. Of course the trade unions and the workers should be in on the inquiry. They should long ago have been shown a copy of the consultant's report. If the people concerned are not allowed to see a consultant's report— just as happened regarding the consultant's report in connection with Dublin Corporation where, due to the machinations of Fianna Fáil, nobody was allowed to see it—the utmost suspicion is aroused and this is quite understandable. There are very many Fianna Fáil Deputies who wish to speak and whom I wish to hear, and they have the opportunity to do so now.

The fact that I am a Deputy for Laois-Offaly means I am greatly concerned with the problem and the redundancy that has arisen in Clara and this concern is increased by reason of the fact that I am a native of, and resident in, Clara. The wording of this motion is as follows:

That Dáil Éireann is of opinion that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should order an inquiry into the decision of the firm of Messrs. J. & L.F. Goodbody Ltd., Clara, County Offaly, to close jute spinning at their long-established mills as Clara...

I do not consider the phrasing of this motion to be correct. As a result of the Seven Days programme on TV and having regard to the wording of this motion, people have come to the conclusion that the jute factory at Clara is about to close. This is far from being correct. When the board of directors made the announcement in regard to the redundancy that was to take place there were 528 people employed at Goodbody's. Due to the phasing out they are determined to introduce, by 1st April there will be between 250 and 260 people employed at Goodbody's.

I wish to make this point because people seem to think that industry in Clara is doomed to failure. Out of the 250 or 260 that will be employed, about 120 will be employed in the jute mills; the remainder will be employed in the polypropylene factory that Goodbody established at Clara some three or four years ago. Therefore, this means that the balance would be employed in the polypropylene end of the industry.

Deputy Enright maintained that the workers requested a public inquiry. I am a native of Clara and I know many of the factory workers very well. I am sure I would have known if the workers within Goodbody's did, in fact, demand a public inquiry. I meet them every day and on no occasion did I hear from any of them that they demanded such an inquiry.

In regard to Deputy O'Donovan's remarks about the destruction of a community in Clara. I can assure him that this is not happening. Of the 250 or 260 people who will be employed after the phasing-out period, 99 per cent will be from the town of Clara. I should also like to point out to Deputy O'Donovan that of the 528 that were originally employed, at least 150 were from outside the town region. Therefore, I cannot understand the Deputy's remarks about the destruction of the community.

Were not 700 employed there a few years ago?

Four or five years ago about 700 persons were employed. Not from the time the Deputy is talking about but since Goodbody made this announcement, there were 528.

It is not a century.

No, but I guarantee there were not 700 in 1970, in 1969 or in 1968.

Deputy O'Donovan said the whole community was destroyed.

There were 100,000 unemployed when you were in office.

The Deputy was not even down in Clara.

I never saw Deputy Andrews in Clara.

Would Deputies allow Deputy Cowen to continue?

I was born and reared in Clara and I know a great deal more about it than he does.

And Deputy Cowen is more concerned about the workers.

A great deal more. The Minister had to bring to the Deputy's notice at the start that it was not a laughing matter. If Deputies here continue to ask that an inquiry be held into Goodbody's decision, there is a danger of the company deciding to pull out of Clara altogether, thereby destroying their plans to expand this polypropylene industry. It beats me why Deputies should say that the community in Clara would be destroyed. That will not solve the problem in Clara. I can assure Deputy O'Donovan that the Fianna Fáil Government will rectify the position in Clara in time.

They have taken over two years to rectify it in Athlone and it is not right yet.

We are dealing with Clara, but the position in Athlone will be rectified as well. While the decision of the board of directors in Clara was disappointing it may in the long term be of benefit to the Clara community. I can go back to the time when I attended the national school in Clara. I saw my own classmates going into the jute works at 14 years of age and working for 14s or 15s a week which rose to about £2 at 17 and at 18 perhaps they could earn £3; and then be let go from the works and told to find employment somewhere else. That was the situation this industry created within my lifetime and I am not too old. Now we are in the position in Clara that adults are working in the factories, not children taken out of the national school and thrown into a dirty jute works and never developing physically or otherwise.

It is 255 instead of 700.

The majority of the 700 employed in the jute works would be juveniles.

Sweated labour.

If the Deputy checks the figures he will find that out of that 700 there were at least 350 girls and boys between the ages of 14 and 18 working for very small money.

That would be Labour Party policy. We do not subscribe to that.

Within a short space of time the position of the workers in Clara will be rectified. A sausage meat factory is in course of erection and will be completed within eight to ten weeks and production will start by 1st May. It may not solve the problem completely but for a start there will be 24 workers, all male adults, employed.

This always happens with Fianna Fáil. Pie in the sky.

It is still a laughing matter. There will always be employment when Fianna Fáil are around.


Deputies should allow the Deputy in possession to make his speech. Deputy O'Donovan has already spoken on this.

With considerable interruptions.

That is unfortunate.

With the designation of Clara there is no reason why, within 12 months, all the workers who are at present redundant should not be employed. No matter what Deputy O'Donovan or Deputy Enright say, this is my belief.

Their scare campaign will not get them very far.

We do not have to go in for a smear campaign. Was Deputy Dowling not one of the great promoters of the smear campaign?

There are a few of them over there in the front bench.

At present there are 400 workers employed in Messrs. Goodbody. Redundancy was phased out from the time of the announcement made on 1st April. Therefore of the 80 or 100 who have already left employment in Messrs. Goodbody I can vouch for the fact that about 75 per cent of them are already employed. Why all this hullabaloo we are hearing here tonight?

Is the Deputy not pressing the Minister every day for industries for the area?

And they are coming.


Deputy O'Donovan said the Minister did not like all this, that it was in his own backyard. It is in his own backyard and he will take care of it. Let me point out also that it was surprising, if not amusing, to see a sister-in-law of the former Deputy for Laois-Offaly, Deputy O'Higgins, kicking up a fuss about the fact that a factory was taken out of Ballinasloe and planted, as she said, in Clara. I wonder what my Fine Gael colleague would think of that.


The Minister said he had nothing at all to do with bringing that industry to Clara.

Her brother-in-law and her father-in-law represented Laois-Offaly for a long number of years.

Fine Gael Deputies do not want the factory to go to Clara. They want to keep the people there unemployed.

Would Deputies allow Deputy Cowen to continue? He is not in the habit of interrupting any other Deputy and he should be allowed to make his speech.

I wonder would members of the Fine Gael Party make it clear whether they agree or disagree——

Would Deputy Dowling please resume his seat? The Deputy is being disorderly.


The Minister said he had nothing to do with it.

To do with what?

Bringing the Ballinasloe factory to Clara.

I had nothing to do with taking the factory from one place to another.

What would this inquiry serve? Would the workers in Clara benefit from an inquiry? Is it not a fact that Goodbody are a private company? It may be said that they got subsidies and grants down through the years. We all realise that the jute industry is declining. Over the past three or four years we have all seen that. Manures and corn are supplied to farmers in plastic bags. Most of the industry in Clara was concerned with the sack trade.

I should also like to emphasise the fact that the sack end of the jute industry is being maintained in Clara. The board of directors have said that the depots they have in Limerick and somewhere else in the north—I am not sure of the town but it is in Donegal— will be transferred to the Clara works and that most of the transport end of the business will be concentrated on Clara. Assuming that materialises, the figure of 250 might not be the real employment figure in Goodbodys in Clara. If those depots are transferred to Clara there could be at least another 50 men employed in Goodbodys. That would bring the figure to the region of 300. There is also the possibility of a further expansion of the polypropylene industry.

I do not know the Minister's mind on this but I cannot see how an inquiry would benefit the workers in Goodbodys in Clara. As I have said I come from the town. I have been talking to the workers since the redundancy arose. In most cases they say that if industries can be brought in to provide employment for those who were let go, eventually Clara will be a better town. I am not taking from Goodbodys when I say this. They were employers in Clara down through the years—for 130 years. In my time—and before my time it was worse—the youth of Clara were thrown into the jute industry and got no real chance to make any headway in life. They could be let go at 18 or 19 years of age and they were not fit to take up any other employment. Anyone who was ever in a jute factory would know that it is a filthy place to work in.

There should be an inquiry into the Fine Gael attitude on more industry for Clara.

Deputy Enright would not like that.

Amongst the 700 employed, there were many juveniles and teenagers in this factory in Clara. When those who are redundant at present are re-employed in Clara it is my opinion that Clara will be much better off because the local workers will not be dependent on one industry as has been the case down through the years. If you did not work in Goodbodys you cleared out of the town altogether. If we can get two or three small industries in the town to absorb the unemployment I can vouch for it that, as Deputy O'Donovan put it, there will not be the destruction of a community. It will not take place; it has not taken place; and it will never take place in Clara.

I hope not.

I should like to press the Minister for more industry for Clara. That is the only solution to the problem. I have every confidence in our Minister and in our Government.

Two and two. That is only fair.

That is a matter for the Chair, not the Deputy.

I am not in agreement with having this inquiry because it will not serve any purpose. Since this redundancy arose we have heard the Opposition Deputies in the constituency preaching nothing but gloom, despair and doom. Clara was doomed; Offaly was doomed; there was nothing but closures. If Offaly were depending on them it would be well and truly doomed. All they had to offer was talk. Deputy Flanagan challenged me at a union meeting in Clara and asked me what would I do to improve the situation. I would like to ask him and his colleague what are they doing? They have done nothing only preach the bad story. They preached it at meetings of the Offaly County Council.

Were it not for the efforts made by Deputy Flanagan and myself the factory that is coming would not have come. Rest assured about that.

I know they did nothing.

Without our efforts the factory would not be coming.

I know who made the effort.

The efforts of Deputy Flanagan and myself brought this factory to Clara.

Would Deputy Enright please allow the motion to be discussed?

When my senior colleague, the Minister, said before Christmas that there would be an advance factory erected in Clara the news was too good for Deputy Enright.

I was very pleased when I heard it.

Ten factories are being considered by the IDA for Offaly and three have been approved.

In regard to jute I should like to quote from the Jute and Synthetic Review—a London publication—of November. 1970:

Although various writings have appeared on the wall over recent years it is quite certain that no one within the jute processing industry in this country dreamt that the measure of contraction which has taken place over the past 18 months would do so in such a comparatively small space of time.

It then gives the number of closures which have taken place under the Labour Government in England. I quote:

March, 1969

—Alex Henderson & Sons, South Dudhope—

—48 redundant


July, 1969

—Jute Industries Limited

—80 redundant

September, 1969

—Jute Industries Limited

—160 redundant

November, 1969

—Spalding & Valentine Ltd.

—65 redundant

November, 1969

—Tay Textiles Ltd.

—90 redundant

December, 1969

—Caird (Dundee) Limited

—200 redundant

February, 1970

—Tay Textiles Ltd.

—100 redundant

February, 1969

—Jute Industries Ltd.

—330 redundant

April, 1970

—R. G. Kennedy & Company (Textiles) Limited

— 40 redundant

June, 1970

—Caird (Dundee) Limited ceased jute production entirely

—150 redundant

July, 1970

—Don & Duncan Limited

— 60 redundant

September, 1970

—Tay Textiles Ltd.

— 57 redundant

October, 1970

—Tay Textiles Ltd.

— 90 redundant

This was all under Labour and the Labour Party here and the Labour Party in England are supposed to be all in all and offering what we call pie in the sky and claiming that they can save this and save that. Why did the Labour Party in England not save the jute industry? They let all the workers go. They could do nothing for them. I was told when I was in England that the jute industry was at its worst since 1924 and the English Labour Government could do nothing about it. The Government here and all concerned are trying to help. The number of employees in the factory at present is 420. I am not too sure but I believe that the major let-go that was supposed to take place may not now take place at all.


Good man. Hear, hear.

Polypropylene—or whatever Deputy Enright called it— instead of employing 40 as at present will employ 140 and 70 per cent of the new jobs will be for men. I should like to say also that 70 per cent of the people who were let go from the factory were juveniles. Of the male employees who were let go I am glad to say that I was able to get them employment in other factories——


Good man. Hear, hear.

——and better money than was ever got in J. & L. F. Goodbody. If the Labour Party are so interested in Goodbodys of Clara why did they have people working there for £11 a week and did nothing about it for the last ten years? That was the position. They did nothing about it and they are coming in here now and crying and bemoaning.

And the Government allowed this to continue.

It is not the Government; it is the trade unions. I should like to tell Deputy Enright not to preach gloom in the constituency of Offaly because I was talking recently to an industrialist who said: "I was reading that Deputy Enright and Deputy Flanagan said Offaly was doomed. I do not know whether they come here or not."

The Deputy is incorrect.


Would Deputies allow Deputy Connolly to continue?

Deputy Enright is painting a very bad picture.

He turned the industrialists away.

I know the people of Clara very well. They are a jolly lot and a good humoured lot and they are not people who go around whinging and groaning and saying: "We are doomed."

They will fight back.


The IDA have now commenced to build a factory of 23,000 square feet and I am told they are negotiating with three companies that may establish industries in that town. I will be very glad to assist them in any way I can and I will certainly give all the co-operation and help I can and I will not preach gloom. I will tell them we have a good county, men who are able to work and not afraid to work and they will not work for nothing either like some of the employees of J. & L. F. Goodbody who went in at very small wages and had to work by the sweat of their brow and some of them brought home only £2 and £3 a week.

That is not a correct statement.

It is a correct statement.

That was the position under Fine Gael.

I have been speaking to some of the employees who were let go from this factory and they said: "It was the best thing that ever happened because you got us fixed up in good jobs. We are getting a lot more money now and we are doing very well and we do not want to hear anything about Goodbody."


I will do what I can to help and I have no doubt that the Minister is doing and will do all he can and Laois-Offaly will not be doomed but will be well up. Deputy Cowen and I have been working very hard and we never preach gloom. The people of Laois-Offaly do not want to hear of gloom.

Very briefly I should like to support this motion. At the outset I should like to compliment the Minister for having brought in the sausage meat factory. He said he did not take it from anywhere but I infer from that that he was able to influence its location in Clara. I should like to compliment him on coming so quickly to the aid of the redundant workers there. I should also like to compliment my colleagues, Deputy Enright and Flanagan, for providing the spur which ensured that the Minister was able to move so quickly and so effectively to the aid of the people in Clara.

I was rather surprised to hear Deputies Cowen and Connolly opposing this motion which calls for an inquiry into the affairs of this firm. They stated—and I am sure it is quite true—that this firm has had large subventions from public funds. It is a publicly quoted company on the Stock Exchange. All this motion asks is that this firm's decision, which threw some hundreds of people out of work and, to use Deputy Cowen's euphemism, will phase out even more—phasing out means sacking of course—should be subjected to a public inquiry. I am surprised that Deputies are opposed to this particularly as they gave indications here of the type of employment which apparently was given by this company in years gone by when it employed child labour at immorally low wages. I am surprised to hear these Deputies coming to the defence of such a company. I saw the television programme which investigated this redundancy decision. It seems quite clear that one of the most important qualifications for management in this company was the accident of birth.

Quite true.

An additional qualification would be a period of service in the British Forces preferably in the Brigade of Guards. I have no doubt a good seat to hounds would also enhance a person's position in the management of this company. Here we have members of the Republican Party objecting to a motion calling for an inquiry into a company run by people with the qualifications I have mentioned who are in the process of phasing out— sacking—278 workers. There should be no objection whatever to an investigation into the affairs of this firm. If it could prevent the likelihood of further unemployment and make industrialists realise their responsibility to employees who have given their life blood to the service of this firm it would be worthwhile.

Jute has been phased out for years past.

I cannot understand how this firm with the loyalty and service which it has got from the people of Clara should put the emphasis for their new development in Waterford and not in Clara. They must have known for years that jute was a dying industry and they could have taken steps to diversify their investment. They deserve to have their affairs inquired into.

We have got the polypropylene factory.

The Deputies are talkative about this.


I cannot see the logic of defending a company which has been attacked by the Deputies because of the conditions of employment which have obtained there over the years.

That was years ago.


Apart from the desirability of investigating this firm there is the question of principle. To what extent is any firm which depends to a large extent on public moneys from subventions entitled to sack workers entirely on their own decision?

Aer Lingus did that.

I am not defending Aer Lingus. I am suggesting that any firm which gets money from public funds, and particularly one whose stocks are quoted on the Stock Exchange, should be liable to have their affairs investigated by the Department of Industry and Commerce to see that their workers are properly looked after and that the firm is properly run. I am not prepared to tolerate any case of private speculators or people who, by accident of birth, run a factory throwing my neighbours out of employment. In Athlone a mini-tycoon arrived from Cork and threw 300 of the towns-people out of work. We had not got a Minister in our town with the same energy as Deputy Lalor. We were promised two new industries by the Taoiseach but neither of them has arrived.

Did you not get an advance factory?

These unfortunate people have gone to England.

How many went to England when the Fine Gael Party were in power?

Those who have gone during your term in office number 1,200,000 people.


The principle behind this motion is that the Minister and his Department should be entitled to inquire into a factory like this. This is a very desirable principle. The industrialists of the country should be aware of this fact. In any case where they are receiving subventions from public funds, where they decide to sack workers, they should be aware that their affairs are likely to be investigated publicly. It speaks badly for this firm to say that they were unable to foresee years ago the trends in the jute industry and to take steps to diversify their work and to have new jobs ready for the date of change-over from jute production. They should have made arrangements so that their workers could be absorbed. Instead, we have a last-minute rush to bring in the sausage meat factory. I am delighted that the people of Clara got this factory. I have seen the effects of redundancy in Athlone. Redundancy per se is bad enough, but redundancy followed by Government neglect is terrible. In Athlone, the closure took place not because it was economically necessary but, in my opinion, because the people concerned thought it was commercially desirable.

The principle of establishing the procedure of inquiry is a good one.

I think the Deputy wants to push them out.

If Deputy Connolly has something to say let him say it.

Deputy Cooney is in possession.

The object of the motion is to ensure an inquiry and this is a desirable objective. To show that it is a desirable objective I am quoting the experience which I had in Athlone where I saw a viable industry being closed for commercial reasons. The industry which was closed in Athlone was a spinning industry.

The Deputy appreciates that this motion is about Clara.


I am quoting the experience in Athlone to show why there should be an inquiry. The motion in regard to Clara is about whether there should or should not be an inquiry. I am suggesting there should be an inquiry and in support of that argument I am quoting another instance of large-scale redundancies which should not have taken place. This argument reinforces the need for an inquiry into any firm which threatens redundancy.

I have no hesitation whatever in supporting this motion. It appears to me that by having an inquiry of the type sought by this motion the Department would get a more intimate knowledge of the industries which come under their supervision. The Department would possibly be able to assist managements who were interested in forward planning and to help them to foresee trends in their industries. There has been a falling-off in jute production. The firm should perhaps have been able to foresee such trends and to have taken steps to counteract the redundancies. The Department would also get a broader view of an industry under inquiry. It could help to avoid a situation where a mill which could have been re-equipped at a cost of £300,000 was allowed to close where there was a skilled work force available to man it and yet the Department allowed a new spinning mill, at a cost of £3 million, to open in Newbridge, 60 miles away. This mill has taken some of the redundant workers from Athlone. If the Department had the principle of inquiry established as sought by this motion, knowledge would be available to prevent ridiculous and anomalous situations like this arising. I do not think that an inquiry like this could do anything but good. Deputies opposite seem to fear that if an inquiry took place the directors of Goodbody would suddenly develop a huff and decide to close their premises in Clara. If this Parliament and the Department of Industry and Commerce are to be frightened by such a threat it would be an outrageous situation—that a board of directors of any firm could make a threat like this to the Parliament or to a Government Department. The events that have occurred have made it very clear that an inquiry is desirable. A factory which had 528 people employed last year will end up in the near future with only 250; 278 will go to the wall. I do not know how many will be employed in the sausage meat factory but certainly it will be a huge factory making an enormous amount of sausages if it is going to absorb 278 workers.


Deputy Cowen mentioned that there were plans for the expansion of the polypropylene factory but we do not know what these plans are and we here and the Department are entitled to know in detail what they are. We are also entitled to know why these plans were not prepared years ago when the gloomy future of the jute industry was apparent to all the people connected with it. No self-respecting firm who pride themselves on honest standards could object to having their affairs inquired into objectively, particularly when the firm were receiving subventions from public funds.

My information came mainly from the television programme which investigated the redundancy at Clara and it was a sorry and a sad programme. Prima facie it made a very strong case for the inquiry called for in this motion. The people that made the programme are to be complimented. It was objective and factual and although the subject was highly emotive it was not played on for tears. It gave a lot of valuable information and made a very strong case for the motion.

It was not factual.

We might have another Seven Days inquiry.

The people of Clara and Deputies opposite should be very grateful that the film was made because it highlighted the situation. I have no doubt it made the task of Deputy Enright and Deputy Flanagan easier in spurring the Minister on to bring a new factory to Clara.

The factory was announced before that.

All I regret is that a similar film was not made of the equally if not more tragic situation which obtained in Athlone, but then we did not have a Minister of the energy of Deputy Lalor representing that town and I was not a Deputy at the time. The case for an inquiry into the working of this firm is unanswerable, both on the broad principle that firms of this size should be subject to review when they take such a drastic step as sacking 278 workers——

They have not sacked them.

The Deputy's colleague, Deputy Cowen, said that they are phasing out 278 workers. If that does not mean sacking I am a Dutchman.


They are phasing them out. That is what they stated.

Any firm who feel that they have to do such a thing without having any preparation made to absorb these people, who perhaps have given 20 or 30 years service to the firm, should be investigated deeply. We do not know whether it was for internal commercial reasons or whether it was unavoidable economic trends which caused this phasing out but we are entitled to know why it happened. This consultant's report which was mentioned is a top secret document. A man who has given 30 years of his life to the Goodbody family is entitled to know why he is being thrown on the scrapheap. It is up to this House, and his representatives here, to press for full and frank information from that company and to know why that company have decided to throw those Deputies' neighbours and friends on the scrapheap. I am surprised and disappointed that members of the Fianna Fáil Party should oppose the principle in this motion.

I am always distressed when I read of redundancies, of people being phased out, or being sacked. I should like to compliment the Deputies from Laois-Offaly on their efforts to procure new employment for the people who are being phased out. This is a more realistic approach than the gimmick approach of this motion. This is just a gimmick to ensure press publicity for the crocodile tears of Fine Gael. It is in keeping with their attitude over the years of trying to create the idea that this is a depressed area, that there is nothing in this area and thereby turn away people who want to establish industries in this area.

Was the Deputy ever down there?

The realistic way to tackle this matter is to ensure the creation of new jobs. That has been the policy of Fianna Fáil, to create new jobs to absorb workers wherever they may be. It gives me great pleasure to be standing beside Deputies who are pursuing this course day in and day out. As has been said, we have a realistic Minister for Industry and Commerce, a man who is ensuring that Laois-Offaly will have factories to absorb the people who will become redundant. Those people will get redundancy payments which were not in existence when many workers had to suffer in a similar way when the Fine Gael and Labour Parties were in power. There was no redundancy payment then and no way by which people could be assisted during a depressed period.

I and members of my party are concerned that there should be unemployment and we are also concerned that there will be a run-down in certain industries. This is a situation that must be accepted. These industries must be replaced by new industries. The retention of an ineffective industry in an area for the purpose of maintaining employment would lead to a situation which would not be to the benefit of the workers whose skills and techniques are on a par with those of workers in any other part of the world. The people in Clara are no less efficient and no less capable of doing their job than workers in any other part of the country.

As Deputy Cowen and Deputy Connolly said, they have placed many people in good employment and in better employment than they have in Clara and I am quite sure that with the assistance of the Minister, who has a special interest in the area, they will have a number of industries, better industries than Goodbody, to absorb the people already on the labour market and people who may yet be placed on the labour market. One should look at the figures which Deputy Connolly gave in relation to the jute industry not alone for this country but for other countries as well. The industry is on the decline in other countries. An effort was made to diversify industry; people were encouraged to diversify industry and they have diversified to some degree but perhaps not to the desired degree to absorb the people who are being let go, but with the aid of the Minister and Deputies on this side of the House, who are for ever trying to ensure that new jobs will be created, I am certain jobs will be created in that area to absorb the people. In time a better atmosphere will be created that will disperse the shadow of gloom that has been spread over the area by Fine Gael. The people of the area will note that Deputy O'Higgins was the person who said that the industry should not have gone to Clara and it will be obvious to them that Fine Gael wish Clara to be a depressed area and that they are trying to paint this dark picture of the district.

Debate adjourned.