Sadly, I rise to speak about a bleak 48 hours for County Kerry, during which over 200 jobs have been lost. On Tuesday, Wilson Sports Socks announced that it would permanently close its plants in Tralee and Caherciveen with the loss of 185 jobs. This was followed this morning by the announcement from the Rosenbluth call centre in Killarney that it would be closing its doors by April of this year with the loss of 40 full-time and other part-time jobs.
There is a worrying local trend in these redundancies that mirrors a similar national trend. On the one hand, the traditional manufacturing sectors, such as the textile industry, are suffering from a lack of economic competitiveness and price increases. This is seen dramatically in the closure of Wilson Sports Socks. A further difficulty for this factory was the fact that the proper infrastructure did not exist to enable it to remain there. At the same time, in the communications sector, as in Rosenbluth, there is a serious situation facing many companies. This sector, and particularly call centres, has repeatedly been identified by the Tánaiste as one of the key growth areas for the future. That assertion cannot be sustained in the wake of today's news, particularly for the people of Killarney.
The employment situation in my constituency is rapidly deteriorating with no response from central Government. The industrial sub-committee of Killarney Urban District Council recently met with Mr. Conor Healy of the IDA. He advised the committee that there had been only one visit by a potential investor to the Killarney Industrial Park in the last 12 months. In the same period, 15 projects were established in Cork city. This clearly illustrates how rural Ireland is losing out to the urban areas, particularly to university towns and cities. It also illustrates the importance of having in place the necessary physical and technological infrastructure to attract industry to an area. Killarney and much of Kerry has been left behind with regard to physical infrastructure, especially broadband. Is it any wonder that only one potential investor has visited Killarney Industrial Park in the last year when there is no broadband infrastructure in place there? This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
For two years, I have been calling on the Tánaiste to visit Kerry and to meet with industry and trade union representatives to discuss employment in the county. I have yet to receive a positive response. She visits Kerry, and I understand the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is due to visit the county next Friday, but with the objective of selecting candidates for the Progressive Democrats in the local elections. It would be preferable if she visited Kerry to address the serious problem of job losses.
There is a perception that Killarney and Kerry are doing well from the tourism industry. However, it must be remembered that tourism is seasonal. The jobs I am discussing were full-time jobs. In 2003, of the 11,000 jobs lost nationwide in the manufacturing industry, 14% were in Kerry. Up to 1994, 850 people were employed in the Pretty Polly factory in Killarney. Those jobs have now gone and that was followed by the loss of several hundred more. Kerry is fast becoming one of the country's unemployment blackspots, despite perceptions to the contrary.
However, the Government cannot bring itself to send the Minister responsible for employment to visit County Kerry and to see for herself the trauma being experienced by families and communities as a result of redundancies. When will the Government sit up and take notice? Are those in County Kerry to be the forgotten people again? Earlier tonight there was a discussion about emigrants. Emigration is what faces the people of south Kerry again.