I appreciate this opportunity to discuss this serious issue in Navan regarding jobs in the carpet factory. Monday brought the most serious blow to employment in Navan for many years.
The liquidation of the internationally-renowned Navan Carpets was a dark day for the town. It was one of the largest employers in the town, employing over 220 people, many of them married couples, and brothers and sisters, people who have worked there for the last 20, 30 or 40 years. Many of these people are not retrainable, despite what the Minister, Deputy Harney, has said, and it will be very hard to find new jobs for them. Apart from the task force to find new jobs, I also want a task force to help to try to save Navan Carpets.
Navan Carpets is like one big family. Not only has it provided people with jobs, it has been their way of life. Some of those people have worked there for over 40 years. In some cases, families through three generations have held jobs there.
This closure has come about because of a combination of reasons, and the Government's economic policy has not helped. The reasons include the rise in the value of the euro and massive insurance costs. Navan Carpets paid just over €9,000 per week just for insurance cover. This is not good enough, and I blame this Government for that. These are crazy figures. A fall-off in the international and domestic markets for carpets is also one of the reasons for closure.
However, I believe this gives us the opportunity to look again at the operation of Navan Carpets and to make sure it does not close. I want this Government to do all in its power to keep alive the close association between Navan and carpets. Navan Carpets has been like an industrial ambassador for this country, providing a display of skill and craftsmanship all over the world. This is why I want a task force established to keep these people in jobs. I do not accept that Navan Carpets should be let close. I am shocked that that has been allowed happen and I am very interested in knowing what discussions have taken place with Enterprise Ireland over the last number of months to keep this factory in my home town open.
I not only want a task force, I want action, and it must be fast. The name of Navan Carpets must be kept alive, and its carpets kept in the stores and on the markets. I am asking that through the office of the Minister, all the various bodies enter meaningful discussions with the liquidator with the aim of retaining Navan Carpets, keeping it in production and saving as many jobs as possible. I accept, as do the staff, the need for some rationalisation and restructuring, but we must attempt to save the factory. It is not good enough to let it go down the Swanney. A bit of financial help will also be needed, though not a whole lot. This company made a profit of €500,000 million in 2001. It lost only €1.5 million last year, which is not a lot of money when it comes to creating jobs.
I also want this Government, through its contacts in the US and elsewhere, to find new markets for Navan Carpets. When buying a new house, it is everyone's aim to have Navan carpets in it, but people cannot afford that. That is because of the cost of living in this country. That will change, and if we can keep Navan Carpets open for another year or two the market will change, The tradition of carpet manufacture must be kept alive in this country. If we let it slip now, I fear that in years to come we will be grant aiding foreign companies to come here to produce carpets.
Navan Carpets has been in operation since 1938 and it cannot be let go like this. It has survived through thick and thin before, mainly thanks to the staff for accepting wage cuts, etc. With some clever intervention, I believe it can survive this crisis. Action and political will is needed. This tradition and our good name in the carpet industry must be kept alive regardless of the cost. There is no reason to let this slip and it is an ideal area to train young people in the manufacture of carpets. We should build up this industry in Ireland. We are crying out for other industries to come in.
The amount of money required would not be massive. The company made a profit in 2001. Its losses in 2002 only amount to approximately €6,000 per employee. If the records are checked I can guarantee that most of them paid more than €6,000 in tax that year. It would not cost the State a considerable amount to get involved here. I do not want to hear ten reasons why this cannot be done; I just want it done. If necessary, some of the State bodies should get involved in the running and management of Navan Carpets. We have hundreds of good staff in all these bodies, many of whom are able to talk the talk; now it is time to let them walk the walk. We should let them become involved to restructure Navan Carpets and make it viable.
I want a rescue plan to be put together that will work and save these jobs. I also want the Tánaiste, through her good offices, to establish a task force for jobs in Navan. We have always had very vulnerable industries in Navan. The Crannac furniture factory closed recently with the loss of 40 jobs. In one industrial park two other industries, Case New Holland and Plaut, have closed. More than 350 jobs have been lost in Navan resulting in a major unemployment problem. The population that has moved from Dublin has doubled the number of residents in Navan, but no jobs have come with that. We need to keep a close eye on Tara Mines, which is a vulnerable industry sensitive to the fluctuating dollar. We need to do all we can to keep this alive.
The name of Navan Carpets is known throughout the world and to let it go would be a great shame. It would be almost as bad as closing the railway lines in the 1960s. People have gone off wooden floors and in three or four years' time, they will be looking for carpets and will have to go abroad. What a shame it would be.