I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise this issue in the House. I am pleased that the Tánaiste, my constituency colleague, is present and will be in a position to give answers and, perhaps, hope for the people who lost their jobs in Ballyshannon yesterday.
This has come as a bombshell to us all. I happened to be in Ballyshannon on Tuesday doing something with my colleagues who were running for election and there was no word about these jobs. Then, yesterday, we had the shock announcement that the company had gone into liquidation with the loss of 75 jobs. The Tánaiste has been dealing with the SR Technics issue here in Dublin, which represents a major loss of jobs, but 75 jobs in Ballyshannon is, per capita, almost as many, and it is just as serious.
James Likely Limited was established almost 40 years ago, in 1970-71, by a person known to both the Tánaiste and me. It started off with just five or six people and was built up to become the largest and one of the most influential construction, engineering and plumbing companies in Donegal, if not in the north west. At one time, at the height of the Celtic tiger, 150 people were working in the company, which has since fallen to 75, but from yesterday afternoon the company has gone into liquidation. This is a major blow to those who are losing their jobs. They are trained and highly skilled. They know their jobs, have great expertise and have worked all over the country.
The name of James Likely Limited has been synonymous with good business practice. It provided heating, plumbing and air conditioning throughout the country. Now these jobs are unfortunately gone. Like others who have lost their jobs recently, many of these people were the sole breadwinners in their families, with major responsibilities including mortgages, third level education costs and so on.
As I am sure the Tánaiste will agree, this is not the first blow Ballyshannon has received in recent years. It was only last week or the week before that 25 jobs were lost at C & C Wholesale distribution company. In one fortnight Ballyshannon has lost 100 jobs. A number of years ago Parian China, another gilt-edged company, was lost from Ballyshannon. It is ironic that when Donegal Rubber Company closed a number of years ago with the loss of several hundred jobs, the premises were taken over by James Likely Limited, which is now gone. There have been major job losses in Donegal in general and particularly in Ballyshannon. In Donegal unemployment has risen by 80% in the last year. That is an astronomical amount. In Ballyshannon, the increase is well over 80%; I am told it is 84% or 85%. That shows the difficulties we have. From Donegal town, from which Hospira was lost, to Ballyshannon and Bundoran, there is a major unemployment black spot.
All of these people will now be on benefits. Is there anything that can be done to save some of these jobs? In my own area, Údarás na Gaeltachta has a major project, Áisleann Ghaoth Dobhair, on which this company was a major contractor. The job is not complete and will not be completed for another year. If it was allowed to complete such jobs this would keep some of the personnel employed at least until the end of this year. The company was subject to competition from Northern Ireland and other areas. The Government also has a responsibility in this regard.
The Tánaiste and I both represent this constituency. The Tánaiste is nearer to Ballyshannon than I am, but I have been there quite often as well. I know she is doing something there tomorrow, or perhaps next week, which may involve a few jobs, but there is much work to be done. Many people are wondering what the future holds and where they will get another job.
The Tánaiste heads a strategic Department. I would welcome it if she could give some hope to those who are looking towards us this evening, tomorrow and the day after that they will get employment instead of needing to leave the county.