I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter. Last Thursday evening, the village of Clarecastle and County Clare were rocked by the news that Roche Ireland is to withdraw from manufacturing in its plant in Clarecastle. The site was opened by a company called Syntex in 1974 and was subsequently taken over by Roche in 1994. As a native of Clarecastle and having been raised in the shadow of the plant, I am acutely aware of the enormous contribution this manufacturing facility has made to the community of Clarecastle, to County Clare and to the mid-west region for the past four decades. The importance of the plant to the economy of Ennis, Clarecastle and County Clare cannot be overstated. It is worth in the region of €20 million in salaries alone. It is the biggest single employer in Ennis, with 240 direct employees and another 200 contractors working on site.
This shock decision was made in the headquarters of Roche in Basel and results from a review of Roche's worldwide manufacturing network. Roche intends to move away from the traditional method of manufacturing its product to a system focused on producing less volume with higher potency, which is not compatible with the way its four manufacturing plants in Clarecastle, South Carolina, Spain and Italy work, therefore, the Roche Corporation has moved to divest from its interests in these plants. It must be noted that Roche has invested heavily in its site in Clarecastle over the past four years. Some €100 million has been pumped into the plant, making it a most attractive prospect for a potential investor. As well as the state of the art infrastructure, there is a very talented and dedicated workforce at Roche who are highly skilled and committed.
Since this news broke in recent days I have engaged directly with the managing director of the plant. I have met with him and the members of the management team. I have spoken with many workers and their families. I have met with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton. I have also met with the Taoiseach and on a daily basis I have spoken to the IDA.
It is critical that every effort is made to identify an investor for the plant. It is critical also that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation dedicates every resource available to finding a solution to securing the future of this immensely important site. It is my understanding that the IDA is to meet with Roche Corporation in its headquarters in Basel this week, and I also understand that the IDA is to visit the plant in Clarecastle tomorrow. It is encouraging that a potential investor has already visited the site, and I look forward to that investor engaging further in the weeks ahead.
While there is a three year lead-in period, the next six to nine months are critically important for the future of the plant and to the workforce in Clarecastle. Our economy has moved to a different space over the past four and a half years. We now have the fastest growing economy in Europe. There is a sense of optimism in our country and a growing environment of investment. For this reason, and because of the talented, well thought of workforce, coupled with the significant investment made in the plant over the past four years, the ease of access through Shannon Airport and a top class road network, I am confident that an investor will move to acquire the site in Clarecastle.
Last Thursday evening when this story broke I immediately met with the Minister, Deputy Bruton. I welcome his interest and determination to find a solution for this plant. The Minister has a track record in delivering solutions to manufacturing plants in similar predicaments. I ask him to outline to the House his plans to encourage an investor to the site in Clarecastle. I ask him also to outline his work to date and his future plans, and those of the Government agencies, to bring about a solution for the plant in Clarecastle.