I am again in the unfortunate position of having to draw the attention of the Minister and the House to yet another closure and a further major loss of jobs in County Wexford. Just over a month ago, the county was badly hit by the loss of 150 jobs at the Wexal factory in Enniscorthy. This week, my home town of Wexford is reeling from the announcement that the Wexford weaving factory is to close with a loss of 120 jobs.
Both of these were long established traditional industries in County Wexford and the job losses resulting from their closure will have a considerable knock-on impact in the county. There have also been similar closures in other parts of the country and the underlying trend in the live register figures has, unfortunately, begun to creep upwards again. The Minister admitted in the House yesterday that job losses this year were likely to be 15,000 up on last year. This points to the fact boom can quickly turn to bust. At the very least we are witnessing a slowing down in the economy and urgent action on jobs is required. One of the key promises in the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats programme for Government was the further encouragement of a home based industrial-manufacturing sector with export potential and balanced regional development. However, the Government has delivered on neither of these promises. The home based manufacturing sector is suffering a significant rate of attrition in terms of job losses and the Government has failed to honour its commitment to balanced regional development, as the experience of Wexford graphically illustrates.
Wexford has one of the lowest manufacturing bases in the entire country. Recent figures released by the Central Statistics Office reveal that it also has one of the lowest levels of per capita incomes in the State. The live register and labour force survey show that the south-east has not benefited from the economic boom to anything like the same extent as other areas. These are not just statistics, these are stories of human suffering, hardship and neglect. Despite the shocking succession of job losses in Wexford, the Government is doing little or nothing to find replacement jobs or to attract new industries to County Wexford.
The major employers in Wexford use traditional skills. This sector is under enormous pressure from international competitors and many of the jobs of those employed in it are vulnerable. As already stated, no effort is being made by the Government to support these jobs or attract new industries to the county. Reading through the list of new job announcements from the Minister, Deputy Harney, is a depressing experience if one happens to live in County Wexford, particularly if one's job is under threat or has recently vanished. Virtually every other part of the county seems to feature on the list. I do not begrudge other counties their good fortune, but I am convinced that Wexford is as entitled to its fair share as any other. The indisputable fact is that chronic industrial neglect has been visited upon Wexford since the Government took office. It is time those responsible for this neglect were called to account.
Government policy has been reversed by four Independent Deputies. I call on not only the Minister to respond and take action but also those Members who sustain the Government in office to take a stand and put Wexford first. There should be no more reports, analyses, investigations or task forces. What Wexford must have is an immediate and substantive jobs announcement.