This matter relates to a strike which took place in the Killarney Hoisery Company factory nine weeks ago. Having given notice of the question on 21st April, I raised the matter on 27th April when I asked the Minister to say if he was aware of the prolonged strike in the firm, if he would state when he had become aware of it and the efforts he had made to settle it. In his reply he did not say when he had become aware of the situation or the efforts he had made to bring about a settlement.
To my mind and to the business and working people of south Kerry this is a very serious matter. Indeed, it is serious for the country as a whole when there are so many people unemployed. Here we had an industry catering for approximately 800 people and it looks very bad for the Minister and his Department that nothing appears to have been done by him to settle the dispute. The probability had been obvious for approximately six to nine months before it occurred because of the industrial relations within the firm, which were not the best.
The Minister has often spoken about the Department's early warning system which he had set up. I now ask him what exactly has become of this system? Does it apply only to Dublin or his own constituency in Dublin, or does it exist at all. I ask him to tell the House the type of relationship that exists between his Department and firms such as the Killarney Hoisery Company where it was known approximately nine months beforehand that a strike was imminent. It looks to me as if the Minister could not care less about the interests of workers so remote from Dublin as Killarney is. It appears to the people there, business and workers, that the Government and the Minister have no interest whatsoever in those living so remotely from Dublin.
The Minister has had his photograph in the newspapers during the past few days saying he would dole out £20 per head to employers in respect of people put back to work, but here we have a situation whereby 800 people could have been retained in employment if the Minister's so-called early warning system had worked and if he had made any effort to settle the dispute. If this had been done generally by the Minister it would have been unnecessary for him to have put his photograph in the newspapers. He could easily have averted this strike.
I wonder does he appreciate the concern of the business community and the workers in south Kerry at the closedown of this industry which was brought into the country more than ten years ago, giving tremendous employment to the people of south and east Kerry. It is an industry which was a great boom to the town of Killarney and to the agricultural community in east Kerry. A number of smallholders were employed in this industry and the money they took home was put into building up their small farms and small holdings.
It was quite clear from the Minister's replies to my supplementary questions on this matter on 27th April that he took the whole situation rather lightly. I excuse him because he was busy then on legislation, but it appears that he did nothing whatsoever prior to that date to avert the strike and the closure of this major industry. It is quite obvious that he has done nothing since then to remedy the situation. The Minister may think that nobody in south Kerry has any interest in this situation, but I assure him that as long as I am an elected representative in this House I will look after the ordinary man and the workers in south Kerry and Killarney. I am not afraid to come into this House at any time and challenge any Minister on his standing in situations like this. It is terrible that we have had the closure of a major industry and that nothing whatsoever has been done about it.