I wish to share a minute of my time with Senator Camillus Glynn.
I call on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to request the appropriate State agencies to take all necessary steps to ensure that Iralco in Collinstown, County Westmeath, remains in production on terms satisfactory to the management, the unions and the employees. The liquidation of Iralco has been, to say the least, a body blow to the community in north Westmeath, north Meath, Cavan and Longford, for which to company, a major manufacturer of motor components of high quality, has provided substantial employment since 1964. Iralco has been the biggest employer in our area over the past 44 years, producing high-quality products. The skilled and experienced staff were preceded in their positions by their fathers and mothers and by yet another generation, the pioneers of the 1960s.
There is no other employment in north Westmeath, with the exception of Mergon in Castlepollard, the HSE and the local county council, which at present employs ten to 12 people. To say that 420 job losses is a body blow to the area is an understatement. The shock announcement this week of the company's liquidation represents the taking away of the life blood of our area. From an urgent meeting I arranged last Monday evening with colleagues from political parties and our county manager, Mr. Danny McLoughlin, I understand that the closure is due to the high cost of energy, which has escalated over the last two years in particular, the strength of the euro, which is not helping the cause, and the rejection of a cost-cutting plan in a ballot of the workers. The latter is understandable as workers have not had an increase in wages since 2006. Ultimately, however, jobs are more important, and the survival of this company is of the utmost importance.
The company's order book, which is substantial, was the subject of attempts at confirmation yesterday and today by the liquidator appointed by the High Court. It contains the names of some of the biggest motor manufacturers in the world, including Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen and Bentley. All the major manufacturers are supplied with components by this factory. With 420 workers in Ireland and 100 in the Ukraine, Iralco has been a major employer, with a turnover of more then €25 million per year and a wage bill of €8 million per annum. There is nothing that can be done to compensate the people who are to lose their jobs except to do everything we can to keep this factory alive and running.
For the last 44 years we have had a high-quality, skilled and dedicated workforce. The Government now has an opportunity to engage in upskilling and training it. I welcome to the House the new Minister of State with responsibility for innovation, Deputy Michael Ahern. The amount of funding available for research and development, which represents the jobs of the future, means that this is an area that could be of crucial assistance to the liquidator and the company as they consider what can be done to retain the jobs in the Collinstown area.
Although I only have four minutes, I could speak for much longer about the difficulties faced by those living in the area. The loss of 420 jobs in one fell swoop is a major blow to an already fragile economy. The north Westmeath region, as the Minister will realise, is reeling. The workers went to work on a Monday morning and were told later in the morning that a liquidator had been appointed, their jobs were gone, there would not be any pay packet on Friday, and they were to go home. This is the worst possible news any worker could imagine in their wildest dreams.
I ask the Minister of State whether it is possible for the Department and the agencies to come together to fulfil the orders in the excellent order book and save the 400 highly skilled staff who have a track record in this specialised area of manufacturing. I want to be assured, as the local Oireachtas Member in the Meath West constituency — which includes north Westmeath, in which Iralco is by far the largest employer — that the Minister will assist in whatever way the Government can. This is not a fly-by-night company, but one that has made an immeasurable contribution to our area for three generations. I look forward to doing anything I possibly can with regard to working with the Department and the agencies to assist in the plight of the Iralco workers, the management of Iralco, and everyone affected by this in the communities of north Westmeath.