(Wexford): A Cheann Comhairle, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise the closure of Wenaas clothing company in Enniscorthy. Enniscorthy and County Wexford have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The national average is between 4% and 5% while the average in Wexford is between 12% and 15%. The loss of over 40 jobs with the closure of the Wenaas clothing company has been a devastating blow to Enniscorthy and County Wexford. The company was involved in Enniscorthy for many years – it was known as the Janelle factory before it was taken over by Wenaas. The management of Wenaas has decided the company will close its operations in Enniscorthy, with the loss of up to 40 jobs, mainly those of skilled women.
This is a serious blow to the town which has caused a great deal of resentment. In the past three years, despite the Celtic tiger economy and the creation of thousands of jobs around the country, no new jobs have been announced for Enniscorthy and County Wexford. It is totally unacceptable that when the country is booming, there is not an even spread of new jobs around the country. The company has decided to close the factory and operate it as a distribution depot. The clothing will be manufactured in another country, brought back to Enniscorthy and redistributed throughout Ireland. This is unacceptable and I ask the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Treacy, to ask the State agencies what can be done to save the jobs at this late stage. I appreciate it will be difficult because the company management seems adamant that the closure will go ahead.
It is a shame that such highly skilled staff will now be thrown on the dole queues with no hope of finding jobs in other factories because they are particularly skilled in manufacturing clothing. It is imperative that the State agencies create a replacement industry for Enniscorthy as quickly as possible. We need an industry to replace the Wenaas clothing company but we also need an advance factory. Some time ago, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, promised Enniscorthy an advance factory in 2000. Little has been said about this in the first three months of the year. I ask the Minister of State to comment on the progress of this advance factory. Is it expected to be built this year? If it is not, there will be political uproar in Enniscorthy.
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment established a task force in County Wexford, headed by the county manager. Its report has been finalised and is in the Minister's Department for consideration. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will be in Wexford this Friday to meet with the task force and local politicians. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, to request that the Minister meets a delegation from Enniscorthy Urban Council and the local public representatives, Deputy Yates and I, regarding the closure of Wenaas and the proposed advance factory. It is imperative that this meeting takes place when the Minister is in the county next Friday.
It is unacceptable that Enniscorthy continues to lose jobs while in the past three years, thousands of jobs have been created around the country. We are not sharing in the increased employment resulting from economic growth. Wexford has the required infrastructure – Rosslare Port is the gateway to Europe. We have been unfairly treated by the State agencies, including the IDA and Forbairt. Direct intervention from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is necessary to ensure Enniscorthy and County Wexford receive their share of jobs in the future. I ask the Minister of State to convey to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that we are no longer prepared to accept the delay in providing much needed jobs for the people of County Wexford.