Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 22 May 1984

Vol. 350 No. 8

Adjournment Debate. - Dún Laoghaire Firm Job Losses.

Deputy David Andrews has sought and been granted permission to raise on the Adjournment the matter of Question No. 4 on today's Order Paper.

I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. It has caused considerable concern in the constituency of Dún Laoghaire and concerns probably one of the most respected companies in the area. That company, of whose name the Minister will have note, have been good to Dún Laoghaire and the South County Dublin area, in particular, over the years. Anything I have to say during the course of my short contribution should not be seen as a criticism of the organisation concerned, but as a helpful contribution, I hope, towards alleviating a very serious problem for a large number of people.

I asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he would make a statement on the loss of 140 jobs at a manufacturing firm in County Dublin and the plans, if any, that he had for alternative employment for the persons concerned.

His response was that the first indication that he and the Industrial Development Authority had that this company were planning to close their diagnostic reagents plant came on Wednesday, 18 January 1984. It appears that on learning of this development, the IDA entered into discussions with the company concerned with a view to determining whether the redundancies could be averted or postponed, or alternative employment could be provided. The company maintained that their decision was irreversible and about 140 employees were laid off on 9 March 1984.

Now I come to the kernel of the problem, where we have to tread very lightly because, as I understand, discussions are still proceeding between the IDA and the parent company to explore the options for the Irish operation. The Minister might be able to help the House and the Dún Laoghaire Deputies in this regard, telling us how these discussions are progressing. If he considers that revelation in some way prejudicial to those discussions, I certainly will not press the matter, not wishing to prejudice any ongoing negotiations.

The Minister outlined the IDA's plans for the general Dún Laoghaire area, which includes the development of a major new business park at Leopardstown to accommodate quality services and the active promotion of a 27,500 square feet advance factory at Sandyford, as well as the vacant factory space on the council estate at that location. No doubt, the Minister and the Industrial Development Authority, because of my question, have the figures for unemployment in the Dún Laoghaire area. As of 27 January 1984, the Dún Laoghaire employment exchange had a total registered unemployment figure of 5,561 people. This was made up as follows: males under the age of 25 — 1,077; females under the age of 25 — 616; males over the age of 25 — 2,554; females over the age of 25 — 1,314. These figures were given to me on January of this year. My information is that they may have increased appreciably since then.

The Minister's response indicated a massive job haemorrhage in the Dún Laoghaire area. It is symptomatic of the job losses which are continuing daily and are now being accepted as a way of life, but that is not acceptable. The type of job loss concerned here appears to go gaily unnoticed and is accepted as a drop in the ocean of about a quarter of a million unemployed. I know that the official figures are 214,000 unemployed at present. However, the figures unofficially would be somewhere in the region of a quarter of a million.

Despite its size in population, the Dún Laoghaire constituency has never been the focus of specific industrial development promotion. The Minister will be aware that there are only a few small manufacturing businesses in the whole constituency, which has been regarded as a dormitory area for Dublin city. The borough area has a population equal to that of Limerick city, which is an extraordinary statistic. Limerick city, however, has been the subject of a very special industrial promotion by the IDA and SFADCo and I have no complaint in that regard — good luck to them.

The entire Dún Laoghaire constituency, borough and county area, has a population close to that of Cork city which, not withstanding recent problems such as the closure of Dunlop's and Ford's, has always been the subject of very special industrial development promotion. The best of luck to Cork area in that regard.

One very important matter to which the Minister might advert in the context of unemployment is that Limerick has its own third level college which is generally regarded as a major factor in encouraging many of the new technological industries to that area. Cork has its own university, regional technical college and technical institute. Galway has a university and a regional technical college and has seen the arrival of a large number of big manufacturing industries over the last ten years. The Dún Laoghaire constituency has no such facilities, although there is the long awaited proposal for a regional technical college to be developed in the Dún Laoghaire area. These plans are on the drawing board and it is hoped that they will be off the drawing board and into their proper location in the not too distant future. It is of the greatest importance from any point of view, social or economic, that the regional technical college as a matter of urgency be sited in Dún Laoghaire.

There is a tremendous future for the service industry in the Dún Laoghaire constituency. A white elephant stands there at the moment, overlooking Dún Laoghaire harbour — the empty Bord lascaigh Mhara building. There are certain plans for this, but I wish those plans would become a reality and the building inhabited as a matter of urgency. The spin-off effect for the locality would be great, indeed.

Many living in the Dún Laoghaire constituency work in Dublin city and other areas, but those who work in the constituency are mostly in the service industries. Relatively speaking, there is very little manufacturing employment there and that tends to be concentrated on Pottery Road, the location of the factory which is the subject matter of my question. In addition, there is manufacturing employment in Kill Lane, Deans Grange and Sallynoggin. These areas however, have suffered some large factory closure job losses — for example, Waltham Electronics in Sallynoggin and others. Manufacturing employment in the borough is estimated at just over 3,000. The service industry jobs appear to be concentrated in shops, shopping areas and the provision of professional services, representative of what might be called office jobs. The development of shopping centres such as the new one at Shankill — a supermarket and nine shops — and at Blackrock — a supermarket and 50 shops, should provide a fair number of new jobs, perhaps up to 300 in all.

Again, Dún Laoghaire has been a significant tourist area with hotels and so forth. Unfortunately many of them have now disappeared. Consequently there has been a drop in the number of jobs associated with the tourist industry in Dún Laoghaire. I have never been able to quantify exactly what the losses have been in that regard.

This leads me to conclude that there is a very urgent need to develop a positive business and job creating development plan for the Dún Laoghaire constituency. This does not deny the many very worthy organisations that have shown great concern for the area including the Dún Laoghaire Chamber of Commerce, the Dún Laoghaire Junior Chamber of Commerce and the various organisations such as the Lions organisation and the Rotary organisation. There is also the significant once-off annual contribution to employment in the area, the Dún Laoghaire Summer Festival which has gone from strength to strength. It is a magnificent festival and attracts quite a large number of people into the area for its week-long activities. This year's festival will take place in the near future. These are the type of ongoing organisations which have contributed a great deal to development of the area. I do not believe any praise of mine is high enough for them. There are many other organisations which are too numerous to mention. The ones I have named are a representative of them.

Dún Laoghaire has a number of tremendous advantages. We have a large population base as a potential market. There are 120,000 people in the constituency without mentioning the adjoining well populated constituencies. There are 45 per cent of the people in the borough under 25 years of age who will be looking for jobs. In the county area the population under 25 will also be looking for jobs in the near future. We have a well-educated work force with a sense of enthusiasm. This accounts for about 52 per cent of the population.

Another important feature of the constituency is that it is a maritime consituency with an almost undeveloped coastline. The prospects for Dún Laoghaire harbour and the hopeful advent of a harbour authority in the not too distant future represent tremendous potentialities for the area incorporating all of the interests in Dún Laoghaire harbour and creating new interests such as a properly restored fishing fleet. There are tremendous facilities for a fishing fleet in Dún Laoghaire and there are great opportunities for employment. There is also the oft mentioned marina which would attract large numbers of people to that particular part of the constituency combining the interests of the people to that particular part of the constituency combining the interests of the yacht clubs and rowing clubs who are entitled to their particular stake in the harbour. As far as my party are concerned we will be supporting their right to continue to exist there and to make their very worthy contribution. There is a place for all in Dún Laoghaire harbour hopefully presided over by a harbour authority.

In the constituency a large proportion of the people have vast experience of business and their expertise could be further tapped to begin new business ventures. We have between 5,500 and 6,000 unemployed people. The majority of these people are anxious to get employment. We ask the Minister to look at the possibility of setting up a Dún Laoghaire Development Association with the objective of pressing the advantages and needs of the Dun Laoghaire constituency as a location for new business. There are examples of towns which have set up small business associations such as Killala in County Mayo which might be seen as a pilot for the proposed Dún Laoghaire Development Association. We ask the Minister to consider that land in the constituency be zoned for industry. I specifically suggest that a major industrial and business site be developed at Loughlinstown where it would be near to the AnCO training facilities. The IDA should be specifically requested to find large manufacturing industries particularly in the new technologies which should be located in the constituency. If a regional technical college was developed it would play a major part in encouraging industrial development in the area where it is located. We believe that such a college should be set up in the Dún Laoghaire constituency very soon.

We ask the Minister to give specific consideration to the establishment of harbour based industries in the Dún Laoghaire harbour area such as fish processing and the preparation of fish based products. We also ask that small industries be set up which would include the manufacture of small boats, boat fittings and souvenirs. This type of small unobtrusive industry should be considered because the harbour potential is immense. We also ask the Minister to consider, in the context of an overall job opportunity plan for the Dún Laoghaire area, that the harbour be promoted as a base for a substantial fishing fleet which in turn would provide jobs. We ask that the whole coastline from Blackrock to Shankill be developed as a coastal amenity and play area and that specific locations such as the existing Dalkey harbour be further developed with small industries and the area of Killiney and Shankill be developed with small piers and break-waters to improve the amenity of the beaches at these particular locations.

These are some of the suggestions we have in mind in the context of an overall plan for the Dún Laoghaire constituency. We suggest that a major leisure and pleasure centre be developed in Dún Laoghaire which would act as a major recreational centre for the Dublin area in particular. We suggest that the county council, borough corporation and the vocational educational committees in conjunction with the Youth Employment Agency and youth club community organisations recruit and appoint fulltime local youth and community leaders to organise and plan local activities in their areas.

The Deputy seems to be very far away from the question. It is more like a document.

It is a series of notes which I have prepared. I am very grateful to the Chair for his tolerance. This might be seen as a launching pad for what I consider to be a job opportunity and job creation plan for the Dún Laoghaire constituency. I accept that I have gone outside the purview of my original question but, on the basis that the particular company have lost a large number of jobs, I consider, with the indulgence of the House, that I should be allowed offer a solution to the particular problem. These are some of the solutions to what is considered to be a very serious problem in the area. The people of Sallynoggin, for whom I have the greatest affection, the people of Ballybrack, Shankill and the central Dún Laoghaire area demand more of the Government and of their politicians. If we cannot give them jobs immediately at least we have an obligation to give them hope. There is a massive, well educated work force in these areas stretching from Booterstown, Blackrock, Dún Laoghaire, Sallynoggin, Loughlinstown, Ballybrack, Shankill and Killiney. Those people are willing and able to work. If this 20 minutes has done nothing more than to give them hope we have done our job in raising this particular issue on the Adjournment. I agree I went considerably outside my original brief but it is an opportunity which must be taken.

I will give Deputy Cosgrave three minutes.

I would like to join with my constituency colleague in urging that every effort be made to avoid as far as possible any job losses in the area. I do not wish to prejudice any talks or discussions that may be going on. As Deputy Andrews indicated, any job losses at the moment are a major problem and the increasing unemployment figure is disturbing. In this area factories have operated successfully for many years and the local work force must get credit. If there are losses in this factory every effort must be made to ensure other jobs are attracted into the area.

Dún Laoghaire is by the sea and the possibility of providing jobs relating to this fact should be investigated. In this connection consideration should be given to establishing a harbour authority. This matter has been bounced around by several Governments but I hope this Government will make a definite decision. The possibility of creating jobs in the area of tourism, fishing and fish processing should be considered. I hope the Government will make up their minds with regard to a harbour authority for this area, and also ensure the proper usage of the facilities that exist there. Every effort must be made to prevent further job losses in the area and to attract new industries. Dún Laoghaire is near the main road to Rosslare and is also near the new dual carriageways being constructed at the moment and thus has easy access for industry.

I wish to thank my constituency colleague for raising this matter. He recognises the difficulties in this area and the development potential that exists. In addition, all of us hope to avoid further job losses.

I will confine myself to the question raised on the Adjournment. I wish to assure the Deputies that I am as concerned as they are about the recent redundancies in Warner Lambert. Obviously the loss of 140 jobs is a matter that is looked at seriously by my Department. I first became aware of the company's decision on 18 January last and immediately I arranged with officials of the IDA to make contact with the executives of the Irish operation with a view to seeing if the redundancies could be averted, contained, reduced or even delayed. I also wished to determine the status of the remaining pharmaceutical, gum base and surgical drapes operations of the company and to examine the possibility of a replacement project being found or the possibility of expanding any of the remaining Irish operations if there was no question of adverting the redundancies.

The decision to close the diagnostics side of the Irish operation was made by the parent company because its second diagnostic plant located in New Jersey has spare capacity and could adequately meet market demand which has been dropping recently. This drop in demand was linked to the static or declining European sales of the Irish plant product range. I understand it would have taken a significant investment — a number of millions of pounds — to make the Irish plant capable of manufacturing the full range of diagnostics produced by the company while the New Jersey plant, which has the advantage of being situated beside the parent company's R and D centre, can manufacture this range with little or no investment. This emphasises the importance which the IDA attach to a "stand alone" operation in Ireland. Had the R and D centre been in Ireland, I do not think there would have been the redundancies. It is a lesson the IDA understand and one of which they are aware when attracting new industries.

The company have indicated that the closure of the Irish plant is the result of a corporate strategy aimed at strengthening their diagnostic market position and is not linked to any deficiencies in the Irish plant in terms of quality, productivity or delivery. I am informed the company will not alter their decision which was taken for what were considered to be sound commercial reasons. This is not something over which I, my Department or the IDA have any control.

However, discussions between the IDA and the company are ongoing in an attempt to try to secure a replacement project or an expansion of the company's other operations here. I should like to point out that the company still employ about 200 people in Dún Laoghaire in producing pharmaceuticals and chewing gum base. I should also like to point out that in the general area surrounding Dún Laoghaire the IDA are actively promoting the vacant factory space on the local authority industrial estate at Sandyford and their 27,500 sq. ft. advance factory. The IDA originally had eight acres on this estate, the bulk of which has been fully developed and allocated. The IDA have also undertaken a major development in the South County International Services Park at Leopardstown where they have opened a 70-acre site to house quality, international service industries. The first building of 12,000 sq. ft. is currently under construction on this site and is scheduled for completion shortly. These developments will have a beneficial effect on the entire area and the IDA will continue to promote Dún Laoghaire and surroundings for suitable industrial development.

I wish to point out that there are a number of companies in the area giving substantial employment, such as Becton Dickinson, Smith and Nephew Limited and Glen Abbey Hosiery Limited. There are also two other companies I should like to mention, Albright and Wilson and Oriflame Limited who provide valuable employment. It is interesting to note that the manufacturing employment figures for Dún Laoghaire have remained fairly static since 1980. In 1980 the total employed in manufacturing industry was 3,592 and in 1983 this figure was 3,423. Dún Laoghaire has survived the serious recession rather better than most places throughout the country.

Deputy Andrews spoke about third level colleges. While that is not in my Department, I should like to point out that Dublin is well off with regard to third level education institutes. There is the NIHE and the universities and a substantial number of third level courses are carried out at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Unlike many towns and cities throughout Ireland who have no access to third level education, Dublin and the surrounding areas are well catered for.

While Dún Laoghaire has come through the recession rather better than many towns and cities throughout the country, it does not take from the fact that the loss of 140 jobs is a very serious matter and one with which I sympathise fully. I can only assure the House that the IDA will make every effort to encourage the company to expand in Dublin.

The Dáil adjourned at 7.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 May 1984.