A meeting was held in the Dáil on Wednesday, 21 January 2004, between myself and representatives of Clare local employment service staff to discuss the closure of the LES. Also present were a number of other Clare public representatives including Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy de Valera, Senator Daly, Senator Dooley, a board member of Clare LES, representatives of Clare LES staff, departmental officials and representatives of FÁS.
Staff and union representatives expressed their concerns at the decision by the board to close. I pointed out that while the board of Clare LES was made up of representatives from the statutory and voluntary sectors, and the operation of the service was funded by FÁS, it was nonetheless a separate legal entity and I had no function in relation to the internal workings of a body of this kind.
I requested FÁS to undertake an assessment of the labour market needs of the Clare region in the context of the closure of the LES. As part of this assessment FÁS would bring forward recommendations on the type of employment service activity necessary to address the particular needs of marginalized client groups in the region.
I subsequently advised the director general of FÁS of my wishes in this regard. FÁS has advised that work has commenced on this assessment and it will consult with relevant parties in Clare, including staff representatives and SIPTU.