In the past four or five weeks, on a number of occasions on the Order of Business and elsewhere, I have raised the issue of the large number of empty factories and facilities in Coolock and the north side generally, specifically in Clonshaugh Industrial Estate. I asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, if she was concerned that the new EU rules for inward investment which she agreed to in Brussels last year are now discriminating against unemployment black spots in the Dublin region, specifically against the formerly high-tech IDA Ireland industrial estate in Clonshaugh, Dublin 17.
As the Minister of State knows, these rules are called the multi-sectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects and they seem to be already discriminating against large inward investment projects worth more than €50 million to the Dublin region since they came into operation on 1 January last. On a recent visit to Clonshaugh Industrial Estate, I was struck by the number of empty factories which have large "For Sale" signs outside their front gates. One group of workers I met described the IDA Ireland part of Clonshaugh Industrial Estate as a complete ghost town. One of the most spectacular empty factories is the 31,000 sq. m. famous Gateway 2000 building, whose computers we were all using only a few years ago.
This building, which is on the banks of the River Santry near the Acting Chairman's constituency, has been vacant for more than three years. It once housed 3,000 workers making Gateway computers. The Minister informed me some weeks ago that she is trying to market this facility but that it has been difficult to bring inward investment to it. This is because of the operation of the new multisectoral rules.
Two large industrial premises formerly occupied by Selectron are also vacant. The Adaptec facility is for sale. There is a sale agreed sign at the former Saronix plant, another famous manufacturer of high technology medical components in the Clonshaugh area. Its former workforce of young technicians are now walking the streets of my constituency. There is also a for sale or let sign outside the 10,000 sq. m. former Data Products facility which, for almost three decades, made most of the printers used in our economy. The premises of the company which brought the main Internet connection to Ireland, 360 Networks, and which subsequently went into liquidation is also empty.
I could go on with a litany of job disasters on the north side of the city. Last week I made representations regarding the GE Superbrasives industrial diamonds company which has been sold to another company in Connecticut. This company once employed 600 workers and now employs only 150. Although I have been assured that the company's future is secure, workers are striking on several days per week because of their concerns about the future of their jobs.
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment agreed the multisectoral framework on regional aid. I became aware of the framework not through information given to me by the Minister, although I was my party's spokesperson on enterprise, trade and employment, but through a journalist fromThe Sunday Business Post who wrote an editorial in January condemning what the Minister had agreed to. The framework puts Ireland, especially the large urban centres, at a severe disadvantage because of the restrictions it places on inward investment greater than €50 million. The Minister says this creates a level playing pitch. However, its effect is that our IDA executives must inform everyone in the EU, including the new member states, when they are trying to bring jobs to Ireland.
This was afaux pas, and not the first one, by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I urge her to go back to Europe, re-examine this measure and not hamstring IDA Ireland. The agency discriminates against the Dublin area, despite the fact that the 2002 census shows dozens of district electoral divisions in the north and west of Dublin where unemployment is greater than 25%. In those circumstances, the new framework and policy of IDA Ireland is crazy. This is especially so when combined with the Government’s phoney decentralisation policy. Although fewer than 40% of the 276,000 workers in the Civil Service are based in Dublin, it is proposed to transfer 10,000 workers with spending power of €4 billion per annum out of the Dublin region.
I appeal to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to visit Clonshaugh and meet the public representatives in the area. She might also visit similarly affected areas in her own constituency. She must take this problem seriously. We are beginning to see again endemic unemployment among the young people on the west side and north side of Dublin. I urge the Minister to take action.