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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1991

Vol. 407 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Steel Takeover.

Peter Barry


15 Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if there has been any recent developments in the takeover of Irish Steel; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Efforts to find a suitable partner for Irish Steel are continuing but there have been no significant new developments in the matter recently.

I am sure the Minister is aware that the perception outside Government circles is that the reason no suitable partner for Irish Steel has been found is that there is a difference of opinion between himself and the Minister for Finance as to who that partner should be. If this is so, would either one of them — I do not care which one — take this matter by the scruff of the neck and do something to ease the tension for the workforce who do not know where their future lies?

The Government's view on this matter is well known. They are anxious for Irish Steel to be taken over by somebody suitable. If I wanted to get rid of Irish Steel simply for the sake of having a sale I could have had a sale long ago. There was no problem about that. It is incumbent upon me to use my judgment to try to ensure that whoever buys Irish Steel is the best possible person from the point of view of the country and the workforce and the continued viability of the company well into the future. I have not been able to satisfy myself, in all conscience, that we are in a position to sell the company to somebody who would make that company viable during the next five to ten years and keep it that way. If we simply wanted to sell for the sake of selling, we could have done so long ago. I appreciate that there is frustration because it has taken much longer than people anticipated, but I would say to those who are frustrated that it is in their own interest that we try to get it right rather than just get rid of it.

Would the Minister not agree that a decision must be made at some point? I gather from what he said that he is criticising the decision of the Minister for Finance to set up a partnership with somebody else, but I have been——

I am not criticising any decision but rather trying to make up my mind.

I have been approached by and have had conversations with two steel companies from different parts of the world about this matter during the past 12 months. Both of them assured me they had proposed different forms of partnership to the Government but were told by the Department — one last May and the other earlier — that there was no point talking to them as the deal had been signed, sealed and delivered.

That is not so. Discussions are ongoing with several parties. One of the parties who had made proposals in the past has unfortunately since died. Discussions are ongoing with various parties, some of whom would be very suitable if their offer or plans for the future of the plant were acceptable from the Government's point of view, while others might be less suitable for one reason or another. The matter is still being actively pursued. In fact, I have been approached during the past few days by a company who expressed an interest about 18 months ago but who then withdrew. They have again expressed an interest and I welcome that. I have told them we will be perfectly happy to talk to them.