Adjournment Debate. - Ballinrobe (Mayo) Unemployment.

First, Sir, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment here this evening. With your consent and the consent of the House I would like to give two minutes of my time to Deputy O'Toole.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I am glad to see all of the Deputies, including the Minister for the Environment, from the Mayo West constituency here.

I support Government activity to create further manufacturing opportunities in Ballinrobe town. As public representatives from Mayo West we have invested heavily in the future of our young people in Ballinrobe town by providing a brand new community school which, with all its ancillary facilities, will provide the necessary base for young people to do as they wish in educational terms over the coming years.

The Minister for the Environment is due to open a major water scheme there next week and this in itself will provide a basis for further infrastructural developments and an attractive base for industry to come to Ballinrobe. Also the local county council have adopted a scheme for development of high impact visual attractive features to many of our towns in the west, including Ballinrobe, and this is supported unanimously by Mayo County Council.

Ballinrobe has been hit badly in recent years by various closures. We had the sale and disposal of the assets of An Foras Talúntais at Creagh with the loss of 35 jobs. We have had the threatened downgrading of the post office with a further loss of jobs, and the recent closure of a sawmill in the town with a loss of 38 permanent jobs. In the town at present 264 people are employed between Western Pride Bakery, Jennings Meats, Welsh Kitchens, Silear Factory and Cummins' Supermarket, but the fact remains that 574 people are unemployed, twice as many as there are employed.

While I support the measures adopted by the Government to date, they are not sufficient. I am sorry the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not here this evening, but I call on him, as the boss, the man in charge of the IDA, to see to it that as attractive a package as possible is made available to attract potential industrialists to Ballinrobe and provide much needed jobs in an area which has had very high emigration over the years. I do not want to see a situation where the basic infrastructures are in place but the Minister for Industry and Commerce to preside over the economic decimation of a small western town. I would like a commitment on the record from the Minister of State on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that, together they will see to it, that the IDA are given the necessary resources to deliver jobs to Ballinrobe in whatever measure. I will give my two remaining minutes to Deputy O'Toole.

I thank Deputy Kenny for allowing me some of his precious time to speak on this issue. I am glad to have the opportunity to raise this important matter. Ballinrobe must now be classified as a black spot area. Previously, other towns in Mayo had been so classified but Castlebar, for instance, increased job numbers by way of Employment in Baxter Healthcare, Castlebar Cable Products and Johnsons. At that time the IDA came to Castlebar and went some of the way to try to provide jobs in that then black spot area, the same applied in Ballina where they were successful in getting a factory which relieved some of the unemployment problem. The Ballinrobe area is unique in the sense that it lost its railway system some time ago and the agricultural research station in Creagh. That latter project was to have been replaced by a major tourist facility but that did not happen.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, and I attended a meeting more than 12 months ago where the development association were present. The need for this provision of jobs was spelled out to the Minister in Ballinrobe on that occasion, and we asked that Ballinrobe be given priority in that regard. Regrettably the Minister is not here tonight. I do not know what action he has taken since to help the area. It behoves him to tell the people of Ballinrobe if he will now declare the area a number one priority. I have no doubt the IDA will do the job in securing worthwhile industry for the area.

A number of significant new overseas projects commenced operations and recruiting in Mayo during 1990. One of the most significant of these was Henniges Elastomers who, after completing the fit-out of the factory and training the initial key people, have now over 110 in employment in Ballina which is considerably in excess of the original projections. At Castlebar, as Deputy O'Toole said, Baxter Healthcare embarked on a joint investment programme, with the IDA, of £10 million which will lead to increased job numbers of 480 by 1994 — already some 450 of these are in place. The continuing growth in the healthcare industry in the west region is further evidenced by the sustained growth and development at Allergan in Westport and continued improvement in the situation in Hollister Overseas in Ballina.

The small industry sector has continued to be a vibrant part of the economy in the west with 48 projects being approved for IDA support in 1990, 25 of which were in Mayo, representing some 160 prospective new jobs. Grant assistance to small business was approved across a very broad range of sectors including engineering, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and crafts with a very good geographical spread throughout the west region.

In so far as Ballinrobe itself is concerned, the IDA are very keenly aware of the need to generate further employment opportunities in the local economy. I know that the IDA have been working closely with the Ballinrobe Development Company in an effort to develop employment opportunities in the town. The IDA co-operated with the development company in the production of their promotional brochure on the town and its facilities. IDA's project divisions and overseas offices are regularly updated on Ballinrobe and have been supplied with copies of the brochure.

The IDA Galway regional office have also had a number of meetings with the Ballinrobe Development Company regarding new industrial employment opportunities in the town.

On 22 February 1991, the IDA arranged a small business promotion at the Lakeland Hotel in Ballinrobe, involving the Mayo County Development Team and the Ballinrobe Development Company. The promotion was, I believe, reasonably well attended.

Co-operation between public and private sector groups is simply crucial to all of our industrial development efforts right across the country, I am, therefore, very glad to see such co-operation being developed in Ballinrobe.

The IDA has currently underway a programme of refurbishment and enhancement of the 21,000 square feet private finance factory in Ballinrobe which has been vacant for some years, including suitable landscaping in the immediate vicinity of the building. The IDA have also put in place a specially attractive incentive package for new industry to locate in the advance factory.

All of these developments are clear evidence of the IDA's and the Government's commitment to Ballinrobe. However, as the IDA have already indicated to the Ballinrobe Development Company, all IDA's commitments count for very little unless there are local entrepreneurs willing to invest in viable manufacturing projects and overseas investors who are willing to consider Ballinrobe as a location for their business.

The west region as a whole has much to offer in terms of its potential for both manufacturing and other types of employment. The Deputy can be assured that the IDA will continue to play their part in exploiting this potential in so far as manufacturing and international services employment is concerned.