Adjournment Debate. - Factory Closures.

I propose to share time with Deputy Gerry Reynolds.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I wish to raise the matter of the proposed closure of Lilly Industries paint manufacturing facility at Willowfield Road, Ballinamore. The company has been in operation for about four or five years and has given employment in an area that has suffered greatly because of the problems in Northern Ireland, as well as the social problems associated with emigration.

While it may not have been the largest employer in the area, the loss of these jobs is a blow to the local economy. I hope the Minister, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will immediately seek a replacement project. The premises occupied by Lilly Industries was formerly an IDA advance factory which had remained vacant for approximately 15 years since it was built. The opening of the plant was seen as progress but the decision by Lilly Industries to supply its main customer, Masonite, from another source has caused grave concern.

In addition to the loss of these jobs, the area also lost approximately 150 jobs following the closure of Ballinamore Textiles five years ago, which was a major blow to the area. The Minister must instruct IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to seek a replacement project at the earliest possible date in order to reoccupy the factory, thus providing necessary replacement jobs.

I wish to thank Deputy Ellis for sharing time with me on this issue. The proposed closure of Lilly Industries is a serious blow to County Leitrim, and Ballinamore in particular. As Deputy Ellis has outlined, we had a textile factory which closed five years ago with the loss of 150 jobs. Job losses have also occurred with the closure of Lilly Valspar. The area has become an unemployment black spot because of the lack of replacement job creation. We do not want to see this situation continuing in the town of

Ballinamore.

There have also been jobs losses in Drum-

shanbo in recent months so it has been a particularly hard time for south county Leitrim. I want to see immediate action by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that new industries are brought into the region, including the Ballinamore plant. Prior to its use by Lilly Industries the plant had been empty for up to 20 years as it was extremely difficult to attract industry to the area. It is certainly a black day for Ballinamore but I hope the Government, along with the State agencies, will commit itself to attracting a replacement industry for that factory as a matter of urgency. I would like the Minister to outline what proposals the Government intends to make in that regard.

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I share their disappointment that this company is to close with the loss of six jobs. Lilly Industries of the USA established an operation in Ballinamore in 1997 as a direct response to a request from Masonite to establish an operation close to its facility in Leitrim for the supply of white primer and a clear coat product. The facility was located in the 12,500 sq. ft.

Ballinamore advance factory.

In December 2000, the Valspar Corporation of the USA, one of the largest paint and coatings companies in the world, merged with Lilly Industries Inc. As a result, the company is restructuring its operations following the merger. This, coupled with over-capacity in the paint market in Europe, has led to the decision to close the Ballinamore operation which currently employs six people.

The Tánaiste and I understand that the company has agreed redundancy terms with the employees. Representatives of FÁS Employment Services in the FÁS north-west region will be visiting the company next week. Quality registration interviews will be given to the six staff involved and a skills analysis will be carried out. FÁS will endeavour to find alternative employment for the staff or, alternatively, a place on a suitable training course.

The company has also put in place service agreements with all its existing customers in Ireland, which will ensure that their supplies and technical service back-up are unaffected by the closure. IDA Ireland is in discussion with the company to agree the manner in which the building can be marketed for future projects.

Over the past 18 months, IDA Ireland has radically changed its strategy with a view to achieving a better regional distribution of jobs. The agency's new strategy includes a focused sectoral and geographical approach for new inward investment projects, coupled with an added value focus for the existing base of overseas industry in each region. This new strategy also provides for an upgrading of IDA Ireland's land in regional locations and the provision of modern facilities in appropriate locations to cater for the emerging sectors.

The IDA has the objective of delivering 50% of all new jobs from green field projects into the Border, midlands and west region in the period to the end of 2002. Results for 2000 were ahead of expectations compared to the three-year target set out at the beginning of the year.

Recent positive developments in County Leitrim include: the establishment of a credit card processing facility by MBNA in Carrick-on-Shannon, which will create up to 300 jobs; a new 25,000 sq. ft. advance factory which is under construction in Carrick-on-Shannon; Porter and Haylett Ltd. of Norfolk, United Kingdom, acquired the leisure craft hire operation, Emerald Star Line in Carrick-on-Shannon. The company has established a centralised reservations system at the existing offices of Emerald Star Line.

IDA Ireland will continue to market County Leitrim for inward investment and every effort will be made to secure alternative employment for the workers affected by this closure.

I have listened with great interest to what both Deputies have said and I will be in direct communication again, tomorrow, with the State agencies, including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the excellent local county enterprise board. Through the collective efforts of those agencies, and with the full support of the Department and the Tánaiste and myself in Government, we will do what we can to find a replacement industry for Ballinamore as quickly as possible.