Written Answers. - Job Initiatives.

John Gormley

Question:

168 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to recent reports (details supplied) that job losses have reached the highest level in six years representing the loss of 16,000 jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1683/99]

I am aware of the level of job losses recorded in 1998, referred to by the Deputy. This data was mentioned in the recently published Forfás 1998 Review and 1999 Outlook statement. While the level of job loss recorded by Forfás's annual employment survey has been the highest since 1992 it must be seen in the context of overall strong economic growth, declining unemployment and sustained employment expansion throughout the economy.

Employment is dependent on the success or failure of individual firms in the market economy and it is inevitable that some firms will fail as, indeed, many thrive and generate additional employment. The job losses mentioned by the Deputy must be looked at in the context of 1998 job gains where total permanent employment in IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland assisted clients rose by almost 13,000, to 250,000, its highest ever level. Furthermore job gains in permanent full-time employment amounted to over 28,000 in 1998, of which just over 24,000 were new first time jobs, the highest level achieved over the past ten years. Irish owned companies accounted for just under 12,000 of the total job gains, the second highest level on record.

Notwithstanding the considerable success in employment growth, the increase in job losses reflects the impact of unfavourable international market conditions on Irish-owned firms and, particularly, on some overseas companies. It highlights the need for continued focus on actions by firms at operating level, and by Government at policy level, to improve and sustain competitiveness. I can assure the Deputy that this focus will not be lacking under this Government.

Michael Ring

Question:

169 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress, if any, she has made in securing a replacement industry for Ballinrobe, County Mayo, following the closure of a plant (details supplied). [1867/99]

Michael Ring

Question:

170 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans, if any, she has to secure a replacement industry for the town of Charlestown, County Mayo, following the appointment of a receiver to a company (details supplied). [1868/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 170 together.

The securing of a replacement industry for any area of the country is a day to day matter for the industrial development agencies and not one in which I have any direct function.

However, with regard to Betatherm Ireland Limited, on the closure of the company in November 1998, I decided that an Inter-Agency Task Force should be established to formulate an adequate response to the closure.

The task force, which had its first meeting on 18 January 1999 in Castlebar, is chaired by Mr. Des Mahon, County Manager, Mayo County Council. The task force comprises representatives from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, the Local Employment Service and the County Enterprise Board. I have asked Mr. Mahon to keep me informed of developments on a regular basis.

I believe that the announcement on 30 Nov ember 1998 regarding McHale Engineering's new project for Ballinrobe will greatly benefit the local economy and reduce the impact of the Betatherm closure. Based in Kilmaine, Claremorris, McHale Engineering Ltd. is a family owned company specialising in the manufacture of silage bale wrapping equipment. The company, with support from Enterprise Ireland, is embarking on an expansion which will involve the construction and equipment of a new factory of 50,000 sq. ft. and the creation of 60 additional jobs in Ballinrobe.
IDA Ireland, for its part, will actively market the 20,000 sq. ft. former Betatherm factory to potential overseas investors.
In relation to The All Fresh Bakery, I understand that a receiver has been appointed and is having ongoing discussions with a number of parties for its sale as a going concern.
Generally in County Mayo, since I established the North Mayo Enterprise Initiative on 10 July 1997, I have announced many new jobs for the region, including the following: Carrokeel Seafoods, Killala, 85 jobs; Lionbridge Technologies, Ballina, 100 jobs; Coca Cola, Ballina, 150 jobs; Volex, Castlebar, 200 jobs; Allergan Pharmaceuticals, Westport, 170 jobs.
These projects are making a significant direct contribution to the region's economy as well as creating additional spin-off employment arising from sub-supply opportunities. The Coca-Cola project alone will create over 1,000 jobs during its construction phase.
In response to a recommendation of the North Mayo Enterprise Initiative, I also announced that FÁS is to support the establishment of an Auto-Turning Training Centre in Ballina in conjunction with industry. The location of the centre in Ballina is a major boost for the long-term job creating prospects of the region.