I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue. I heard the precise alarming details last night on the news that 150 workers in the Albatros Fertiliser Company in New Ross which produces 25 per cent of all fertiliser used by farmers, is to lay off within weeks — the word used was "imminently"— 150 people. Not only that but 35 workers in Graves & Company Limited under the Dockrell Group, which is a builders providers, is to lay off 35 workers. To be honest we knew in the constituency that Albatros would lay off some workers but we did not know that it would be at this unprecedented level. We thought at most it would be 50-60 people. Between these two lay-offs, the unemployment figure in New Ross will be pushed over 1,000. This is unprecedented. The town of New Ross has a population of 5,000. This will have an extraordinary effect not only on the companies and families involved but on all the service sectors, in the shops and on many other businesses in the town which depend on the incomes of these wage earners. The Minister can deny my figures if they are untrue but we are now talking about 20 per cent of the people being unemployed in the New Ross area. It would not be fair to say that New Ross is the only area that has this problem. I was speaking to the assistant regional director of the IDA today and the figures for each section of the county were released. The up-to-date position for the county is: Wexford town. 2,063 unemployed Enniscorthy, 1,335 unemployed and Gorey, 716 unemployed. I am glad to see Deputies Browne and Byrne present tonight. They were present with me at a public meeting in Gorey for the unemployed. The message which came across to us from that meeting was the despair and frustration of those who face the prospect of having no hope of getting a job.
Albatros employed 360 people. In a few weeks they will only employ 210 people. I am told that the reason for this is rationalisation. This brings me to my first request. The company are transferring from manufacturing to blending and are going to automatic bagging. If this is to be successful, it is essential that the IDA provide the necessary grants for this change in production and ensure that the remaining 210 jobs are safe. I am told — perhaps the Minister can add further to this — that the reason for the lay-offs is due not only to a drop in the amount of fertiliser used by farmers, which is understandably due to their income crisis, but also to the intolerable situation of American imports and dumping of fertiliser. Any request made by Albatros to any of the State agencies would be modest in view of the type of subvention NET received from this and previous Governments. At present they are requesting £37 million. I believe the request from Albatros would be in the region of £1 million. I hope they will be treated as generously as NET.
In the New Ross area the IDA own a 30-acre site. This is prime land for development for advance factories and industrial development. My second request is that this land should be serviced immediately. Money should be made available and an advance factory to give some hope to the unemployed should be provided for. It should be of the order of 40,000 square feet. This is not an unreasonable request. The IDA have awaited sanction for this for a number of years and it is a matter of top priority in view of the pending situation.
When speaking of New Ross it would be wrong not to make reference to the Ross Company Limited. This company for many years provided the backbone of employment in New Ross.