Adjournment Matters. - Plant Closure.

I wish to share my time with Senators Feighan and Leyden.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, to the House to discuss the sudden closure on 25 June of the Glanbia meat processing plant in Rooskey, County Roscommon.

I was somewhat surprised that the Minister refused to take my previous motion regarding the rebuilding of the Glanbia plant, the day before the announcement was made—

That is not the Minister's role. The Senator must speak on the matter he made known for the Adjournment.

We were disappointed that this plant, which was gutted by fire on 8 May last year, was not rebuilt. Public expectations were raised, only to be dashed again through falling victim to this Government's unique brand of deception and duplicity. Every politician seeking election had promised that the Glanbia meat processing plant would be up and running in the shortest possible time.

The Glanbia workers in Rooskey and the surrounding areas are disappointed with what has happened. Up to 400 jobs have been lost in the Longford-Roscommon-Leitrim areas. Many small farmers, whose livelihoods depended on the plant, will be ruined and shops and community businesses, etc, will be adversely affected. Following the deferral of Cardinal Health last year, this is a blow too many for our area. At the same time, I welcome Abbott Laboratories to Longford. This company will provide worthwhile jobs in the county. Longford County Council has moved fast and efficiently in granting it planning permission.

I raise this matter in the hope that the Minister will make a full and open statement as to what Government grants were made to Glanbia and what intervention measures were taken by the Government to attempt to keep it open. The people of Longford trusted the Government promises that Glanbia would be rebuilt. They deserve a detailed breakdown of the measures that were presumably taken in an effort to save the plant. Nearly 14 months after the Glanbia plant was destroyed, the company finally stated that it would not reopen the Rooskey facility but would instead invest in its plants at Edenderry and Roscrea. This has left the Rooskey workers in a precarious position, with over 400 families affected. Over and above those who worked in the plant, shopkeepers and other sections of the community have been affected.

It has been estimated that the cost of rebuilding the plant would be in the region of €30 million. A similar sum is now being invested in the other two facilities. Does this sum represent Government grants given specifically for Rooskey? Did the Government offer any financial incentives to Glanbia to retain the Rooskey plant?

I do not need to go over the number of promises to the midlands this Government has broken. They are too numerous to mention. The figures speak volumes and they have been documented in both local and national newspapers since the Government returned to office. Even during the previous five years there was little or nothing delivered to this area. It deserves better treatment than it is getting.

Generations of local people have worked at the Rooskey plant since the 1940s. There was a great pig processing plant there which was a source of regular local employment. I compliment the Hanley family from Rooskey which provided those jobs for the area during bleak times. The plant was later taken over by Irish Country Meats and latterly by Avonmore which became Glanbia. All that is left of this once thriving plant is the cannery facility. As the rest of the 40 acre site lies idle, it is important a facility is put in place. We must ensure that Cardinal Health comes to Longford when it comes on stream. It has been promised and a huge workforce is available.

The grim news for Rooskey follows the closure of the Atlantic Mills factory which is only six miles up the road from Rooskey in the Tarmonbarry-Clondra area. It employed over 500 workers at its peak. These closures show a total disregard for the counties of Longford and Roscommon. I call on the Minister to face up to her responsibilities to the people of Longford and Roscommon. Adequate measures must be put in place to assist workers, and their dependent families, affected by this closure. I look forward to the Minister's response.

I thank Senator Bannon for sharing his time. Senator Feighan also tabled a motion in the last few days on which he agreed to share time with me.

I sympathise with the 350 workers in Rooskey, County Roscommon who have lost their jobs. The cannery remains but we do not know for how long as canneries require raw material to stay in business. The Hanley family was in operation for the last century and left a great legacy. The workers have provided great products and a tremendous service to the people. As a former Minister with responsibility for trade, I worked in Japan selling Irish pork from the company which was ahead of its time and whose products were held in high regard.

The Glanbia building burned down and the insurance company should insist that the building is restored. The money cannot and should not be moved to Edenderry or Roscrea to build up the plants there. I was a Deputy when the UMP factory in Ballaghadereen was destroyed. Both I and the Minister, Deputy Joe Walsh, ensured that Avonmore bought it over and rebuilt it in Ballaghadereen. At the time I said that the Government would not be responsible for its closure but would be responsible and involved in the reopening of the plant.

Glanbia should not receive any grant support if it does not rebuild the plant. It is needed in Rooskey for the suppliers in Monaghan, Cavan and the north west who have been loyal to this company over the years. This is a serious situation. There is a public meeting next Wednesday night, which I intend to attend. I publicly appeal to Glanbia plc to reconsider the situation, re-build the factory in Rooskey and provide the jobs that are so badly needed in the BMW region. Roscommon has not received its fair share of jobs in the past number of years. The IDA has let us down in that regard. I appeal to the Government not to support Glanbia's proposal to develop Edenderry and Roscrea.

I thank Senator Bannon for sharing his time with me. I was at a meeting in Rooskey last Wednesday night at which great anger and concern was expressed that this factory could be lost to the area. Just 13 or 14 months ago, before the fire, this factory had been due to expand and its workforce increased. There is a suggestion that the main reason the factory is moving away from Rooskey is that Government Ministers represent the constituencies to which it is proposed to move the factory's capacity. I ask the Minister of State to refute that suggestion. Will the Minister of State ask the Tánaiste to set up a special task force to replace the jobs in this area, which has become a black spot? We have cross-party support on this matter in the Seanad, which is as it should be. In Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim, we are all wearing one jersey and will campaign vigorously to ensure that these jobs are replaced.

I apologise for the absence of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who wants me to thank Senators for raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Since the fire at Glanbia Meat's plant at Rooskey, County Roscommon in May 2002, the company had been examining the possibility of rebuilding its pig slaughtering plant. Unfortunately, the outcome was the announcement by the company last week that the rebuilding of the Rooskey plant was not going to proceed. The company had indicated, subsequent to the fire, that it was its intention to re-build the plant. However, despite extensive exploration of options by the company, it proved to be uneconomic to do so.

According to Glanbia, the restoration of lost capacity into the existing facilities at Roscrea and Edenderry was seen as a better long-term solution for the company and its producers. Senators will appreciate that the re-building of any plant is a matter for the individual company itself. While the Glanbia decision, based on commercial considerations, is not to rebuild the Rooskey facility, it will develop the existing Roscrea and Edenderry plants. Decisions on the future configuration of its operations are entirely a commercial matter for the company itself. As part of a proposed €27 million investment in the rationalisation of slaughtering facilities with a view to improving competitiveness, an additional 150 jobs will be created between the Roscrea and Edenderry plants.

In effect, plans are now being developed to reshape the business, using the fire as a catalyst for change. Glanbia Meats has been in detailed discussions with Enterprise Ireland, seeking support for the proposed investment with a view to maximising the level of value addition that will take place in Ireland. This proposed investment is seen as critical in order to establish a sustainable strategic position for the Irish pig meat industry, matching international competitive and best practice standards. The plant in Rooskey has received grants of €3.4 million from Enterprise Ireland. In addition, it also received financial assistance under the EU FEOGA programme.

A voluntary redundancy scheme has been agreed with the workers at Rooskey and 290 people have already left the company on that basis. Most of the redundant workers have registered with FÁS, which is offering them the full range of services available, including skills analysis, job placement, guidance and counselling interviews, identification of training needs and suitable courses. The existing Glanbia Meats cannery at Rooskey, employing some 95 people, will be developed and a number of growth initiatives are being explored.

The State development agencies are fully committed to addressing the adverse situation arising from the job losses in Rooskey. IDA Ireland is committed to playing its part in the development of the Midlands by maintaining the maximum number of existing jobs in overseas industry and by attracting new foreign direct investment into the region. The agency has strengthened its commitment to the midlands by establishing its health care division, together with part of its property and regions divisions, in Athlone. Enterprise Ireland will work with the management of Glanbia Meats to assist any staff members who wish to pursue starting up their own businesses. This will be done in co-operation with FÁS and the county enterprise board.

The State development agencies are fully committed to the promotion of employment creation in County Roscommon. The agencies work closely with each other and with the development bodies in the area, including the Roscommon County Development Board and Roscommon County Council, as well as other local bodies and interests, in facilitating an integrated approach to enterprise development. This existing co-operative framework can be used effectively to deal with job losses and job creation in County Roscommon.