Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Questions (41)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

114 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the recent spate of job losses in Kerry; the steps she intends to put in place to revise this trend; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3633/04]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

I regret very much recent job losses in County Kerry, including the Sports Socks Company's plants in Cahirciveen and Tralee, and Rosenbluth in Killarney, and I am conscious of the adverse effects on the workers, their families and the local community. Finding alternative employment for the workers affected is a priority for FÁS and the State development agencies. FÁS is making available its full range of support services, including skills analysis, training and job placement for the workers affected.

In addition to targeting potential new greenfield investment from overseas industrialists, IDA Ireland is working with the existing base of companies in the county with a view to supporting them in expanding and diversifying activities. IDA Ireland has also completed site development works on its business park in Killarney and is actively promoting the area for new investment, including a new building facility in the park.

Enterprise Ireland is supporting a major expansion at FEXCO, currently under way in Killorglin and Cahirciveen, which will provide additional employment for 250 people. The agency is working closely with the development of existing enterprises in the county and is promoting the establishment of new enterprises.

In addition, Enterprise Ireland is providing aid for the expansion of the Killarney Technology Innovation Centre and to the Institute of Technology, Tralee, for the establishment of a campus business incubation centre.

Shannon Development has invested some €8 million in the development of Kerry Technology Park, Tralee, in partnership with the Institute of Technology, Tralee, Kerry County Council and the private sector. This technology park should provide a valuable base for enterprise development in the area. Kerry County Enterprise Board is also providing valuable support for the establishment and expansion of micro-enterprises in the county.

The major decentralisation programme announced in the budget includes 165 jobs to be relocated to Killarney and a further 50 jobs for Listowel. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in Kerry. The designation of both Tralee and Killarney as hub towns under the Government's national spatial strategy adds to the attractiveness of the county for overseas and indigenous investment.

The Minister accepts that over 220 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing industry over the past two weeks. This is the equivalent of 20,000 jobs in Dublin. I can imagine the response if job losses prevailed to that extent in Dublin. Will the Minister visit Kerry as soon as possible and meet the social partners, leaders of industry and the county manager to discuss ways in which to reverse the trend?

No problem.

Besides, there are further job losses on the horizon. The owners of one particular plant in Listowel were over from America last week and the outlook for the plant is very gloomy. Addressing this problem will require more than the actions the Minister outlined in her reply. She will have to come down to Kerry herself and be more proactive in her approach to reversing this trend. The social partners are ready to meet her, as are the other captains of industry.

I appreciate Deputy Deenihan's invitation to Kerry. It is always a great pleasure to visit the county and I will be visiting it shortly on an extensive visit. Notwithstanding the disappointing news about the companies we mentioned, there are companies expanding in the Kerry area. The live register is up 147 year on year but there are also a substantial number of immigrant workers in many of the companies in Kerry.

I am conscious of the need for more investment in Kerry. Last year, the IDA brought five different companies on site visits to the county and I believe the new facilities in both Tralee — the Shannon Development technology park — and Killarney — the IDA's new business and technology park — will be very valuable pieces of infrastructure to market to both overseas investors and, I hope, indigenous investors.

I, too, invite the Minister to Kerry — I believe this is my fifth time to do so. I know she has been in Kerry since I first issued the invitation to her to meet the social partners and such people with regard to employment issues. It is very serious that the IDA has attracted only one person to visit Killarney. In light of the Minister's statement that Enterprise Ireland has expended funds recently, will she provide me with information — she may not have it on hand — on how they were spent? I do not believe it was to create jobs. There is no broadband in the industrial estate in question. When will this be made available? Of the 165 jobs promised as a result of decentralisation, how many will be available to those who lost their jobs recently?

Is the Minister happy that the IDA did not create one single job in Kerry last year? It brought only two itineraries to the constituency of Kerry North, for example. Surely this is not a credible performance.

If any visit of mine to Kerry or anywhere else can generate employment, I will be willing to make such visits to any county. The IDA had five site visits to Kerry North in 2003. The support of Enterprise Ireland was for the expansion of FEXCO. In addition, FÁS has about 1,500 people in either apprenticeships or training programmes in Kerry, which represents a considerable resource. Many of these have lost their jobs as a result of the aforementioned redundancies. I assure the Deputies from Kerry that this issue is a priority, and I hope this will be a better year for investment because of the performance of the global economy. I hope Kerry will have new investment during the year.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.