I thank you, Sir, for allowing me to raise this important matter on the Adjournment. The Finn Valley area of County Donegal received another blow yesterday evening when Nena Models Limited announced the loss of 75 manufacturing jobs in its Castlefinn factory. This industry has been located in County Donegal for over 30 years and provided employment for 600 at its peak production. After yesterday's announcement its employment in the Finn Valley will be reduced to 50, mainly engaged in administration and distribution located in the company's Stranorlar plant.
This is a most serious blow, not alone to that part of County Donegal which has suffered so many job losses in recent years, but especially to the 75 employees who have been made redundant. Many of these men and women have given long years of faithful service to the company. Many have financial responsibilities, such as mortgage repayments, educational expenses and other commitments. At a meeting last Monday attended by me and my colleagues in the House and other public representatives, we heard stories that people would have to sell their houses in the wake of the closure. They now face a bleak and uncertain future with few prospects of immediate alternative employment in their area.
The only measure that can be adopted at this stage to cushion the loss of jobs is the provision of a generous redundancy arrangement. I understand the company is in a sound financial position and I also understand that statutory redundancy payments are to be increased in the near future. The Taoiseach indicated this to me in the House this morning.
The Nena Models workers who are being made redundant should, and must, benefit from these factors. I appeal to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that the offices of FÁS are used to initiative a training programme for those who have unfortunately lost their jobs and their livelihood.
The Finn Valley is an economic and unemployment blackspot. In the past years over 1,000 industrial jobs have been lost, including 600 at Nena Models and 400 at Herdmans. This does not include the fall in agriculture employment. Not only does the absence of job opportunities cause major economic difficulties and hardship, it is also the cause of many social and personal difficulties, especially among young people, those under 25 years of age. In recent times the people of the Finn Valley have experienced such difficulties.
The Government must bear a major responsibility for the loss of these and other jobs in County Donegal. The high cost of production fuelled by one of the highest inflation rates in the European Union and high insurance charges and energy costs are forcing these long-established industries to relocate in other parts of Europe, such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia. Nena Models has already commenced production in some of these countries. The Government's pursuit of such policies will result in further job losses.
The Minister has responsibility for IDA Ireland and Forbairt, the job creating agencies in the Finn Valley area. I call on her and the agencies to ensure that they visit the Finn Valley as soon as possible to see for themselves the hopelessness of the job situation. The Minister visited the area a number of years ago and met people from the chamber of commerce, community councils and so on. Since then the situation has deteriorated to crisis proportions. I am asking for a commitment that every effort will be made to attract a major industry to this area of County Donegal and to prevent it from becoming an economic and unemployment wasteland.