Adjournment Debate.

Job Losses.

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.

I thank the Deputy, my constituency colleague, for raising this matter on the Adjournment. Like him, I was disappointed to hear about the liquidation of James Likely Limited in Ballyshannon with the loss of 75 jobs. The company has been in existence in Donegal since being set up in 1970. My first concern is with the workers who will lose their jobs and every effort will be made to assist them. The services available from the training and development agency FÁS will be important in this regard.

James Likely Limited is a mechanical building services contractor. Unfortunately, this company along with a number of similar companies has suffered from the downturn in the construction industry. I understand that the company's directors regret yesterday's developments, but they believed that they had no alternative. In earlier times, the company would have received assistance from Enterprise Ireland with the development of the company's business. However, the agency has not been actively involved with the company for a number of years.

The jobs will be a great loss to the town of Ballyshannon and the surrounding area. I can assure the House that the IDA and the local county enterprise board, CEB, are making every effort to attract new jobs to the south of the county. In this regard, the IDA is encouraging new investment for Donegal in knowledge-based industries. This is part of a focused strategy to replace the more traditional-type industries that have, unfortunately, been declining in the north west region in recent times. Donegal's industry base is moving to high-tech, high-skill activity.

In the past five years, five IDA-supported companies have created more than 750 new jobs in the county. Some 12 IDA companies in Donegal employ more than 1,700 people in software development, systems development and the medical technology industries. The agency is also building up an international and financial services cluster and is progressing in this area, as evidenced by the announcement of 123 jobs by SITA Incorporated. Significant investment has been undertaken in developing property solutions in Ballyshannon and Donegal town in particular. These investments will enhance south County Donegal's ability to attract further industry and jobs.

Following a meeting between the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, the Donegal CEB, the local community and myself last August, it was agreed that a study would be undertaken into the needs of the area to address the economic difficulties. Enterprise Ireland was a co-sponsor of the report, which is due to be finalised shortly.

So far this year, Enterprise Ireland has paid out in excess of €360,000 to its client companies in the county. In February, the agency held an enterprise start event in Buncrana to promote entrepreneurship in the area, identify potential entrepreneurs and help develop their projects. Following this, the agency has promoted the new year-long Propel programme, an enterprise development programme for the Border region that is heavily supported in the county. In all, 20% of all applicants and 25% of the successful participants to the programme are from the county. Phase 1 of the programme starts on 23 May. The objective is to develop ten to 12 investor ready high-potential start-up businesses within 12 months. In addition, Enterprise Ireland worked closely with the Donegal CEB in its enterprise week at the end of March, providing speakers for a number of events, including the First Flight programme, the objective of which is to encourage and facilitate companies to pursue export markets.

In the course of 2008, the CEB paid out more than €690,000 in grant assistance to 31 clients, thereby assisting in the creation of 187 jobs in the region. I am pleased to say that this year, the CEB will continue to support enterprise and job creation in the area through direct and indirect assistance.

I am confident that the strategies being pursued by the industrial development agencies, in partnership with other key players and local interests with the Government's ongoing commitment to regional development, will drive investment and job creation for the south of the county. It is my wish that, working with the agencies, we will continue to pursue the matter vigorously.

Debate adjourned.