I thank you for the opportunity to raise this matter. That I received a telephone call from the Department asking what I was getting at is a sad indictment and testimony to the lack of understanding of the impact which the loss of 320 jobs has had on a town such as Dundalk. I was astounded last Thursday evening when I saw the "Six-one" news. I do not for one minute begrudge the employees in Packard the excellent efforts which have been made on their behalf in regard to the Tallaght task force report. The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, announced he has approved the Tallaght task force interim report and that it now awaited the Government's approval. Perhaps the Minister would give an indication as to whether the Government has approved this report.
It is a fine report in that £2.1 million has been allocated to assist the former employees of Packard in their plight. The loss of 320 jobs in the Dundalk area is equal to, if not more devastating than the loss of 800 jobs in Packard in Tallaght. I was surprised to see the chief executive officer of the IDA launch this interim report. This is in stark contrast with what has happened in Keytronic in Dundalk, where we asked for a similar type task force — the Minister is aware of this request — for the Dundalk area and a trust fund for the former employees of Keytronic who are to be laid off in probably worse conditions given the redundancy and other issues relating to the Packard employees. On the one hand we have a report asking for and securing £2.1 million from the Government to assist the former employees of Packard and we get nothing from the Government and the State agencies in respect of Keytronic. We are thankful for the EPC project in Dundalk but there is no connection between the two issues.
I accept that we cannot dictate to EPC about the employees it should take on, but the Government is putting its shoulder to the wheel in retraining former Packard employees. A new company is proposed for Dundalk but efforts are not being made to retrain former Keytronic employees so that they might have a chance of recruitment in the new facility.
I am sure the Minister will say we have enough in Dundalk and that we should be happy. The employees of Keytronic are not happy and a trust fund, similar to that provided for the Packard employees, should be set up. In the region of £550,000 in the form of grants, interest free loans, counselling, retraining and so on is being allocated to help soften the blow in the Tallaght area. I ask for the same treatment for the town of Dundalk which has suffered greatly for many years. In recent years efforts have been made to build it up from a very poor base. In 1989 the then Government changed the rules from maximum grant status for IDA purposes which allowed business people in the area to invest in advance factories and Dundalk was held up as an example to other towns. Local investors invested money in advance factories which ultimately led to new industries in the area. Dundalk was also designated under the area partnership scheme and this has proved successful. I ask the Minister to ensure that the employees of Keytronic are treated in the same way as the employees of Packard. IDA Ireland, FÁS and other State agencies, including the Minister's Department, should work together to assist the employees of Keytronic.