Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 September 2006


Company Closures.

8:00 pm

Photo of John CreganJohn Cregan (Limerick West, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise what to my constituents is an extremely important matter. I also thank the Minister for his presence. We raise matters on the Adjournment on several occasions over the year and it is not always possible for the appropriate Minister to reply. Tonight he shows by his presence how seriously he is treating the imminent demise of Castlemahon Food Products Limited in west Limerick.

Yesterday was a bad and bleak day for workers in Castlemahon and growers in the area. I will start on a positive note by saying that we still have a chance to salvage at least part of that operation. It is extremely important that we think positively. I know that there are moves afoot as we speak to try to ensure that. We should preface our remarks by being positive and trying to encourage everyone with the responsibility of playing a part to come on board. I am of course seriously concerned for the 300 workers who face an extremely bleak few months approaching Christmas. They are predominantly young people who have taken on commitments in life and who need a week's wages coming into their house. In some cases both partners are being affected, and we must make every effort to ensure that we can save as many of those jobs as possible.

Second, the growers are predominantly small farmers on family holdings around the Castlemahon area and a little farther afield. Some 80 to 100 growers are dependent on the income that they received from the production of chicken for the Castlemahon processing unit, having diversified from dairying. We must try to ensure that a market can be secured for those growers. The best possible market is that which they have locally in Castlemahon. We must reinvigorate the Castlemahon brand name, which is famous all over the country and the UK. It is very important that we do so.

A worst-case scenario is Castlemahon's total demise, which I certainly hope does not occur. In that event, I will call on the Minister, his Department and all the statutory agencies to come on board and make every effort to ensure that they step up to the plate for Castlemahon and west Limerick in general. We have not had a positive response from the IDA or Enterprise Ireland for many years in this regard.

I recognise that we have had massive investment and support for indigenous industry in west Limerick. We have seen many jobs created, but when five, ten or 20 jobs are created, we do not have a fanfare of announcements or recognise their value to our communities. They are valuable, and I hope that we can continue creating such posts. I acknowledge the support of the county enterprise board, West Limerick Resources, Shannon Development and others in that regard. However, as I have said, IDA Ireland has a case to answer for west Limerick and I hope that it will now step up to the mark and help in whatever way it can to ensure success.

This comes hot on the heels of the demise of Kantoher, part of the Kerry Group, which was also a chicken-processing unit, 14 or 15 months ago. I acknowledge the success story that has taken place and the efforts of everyone concerned. The local action group or task force put in place is to be commended on its tremendous work in turning a very gloomy and sad story into something very positive. It has been accused of being a talking shop. I neither accept nor agree with that, since it has successfully applied for grant aid from the Minister to provide a new enterprise park in the Kantoher area. To his credit, following a visit to the area at my request, the Minister approved the appointment of a development officer, which I believe will shortly occur. The area has also secured a site for the enterprise project from the Kerry Group, whose efforts I also acknowledge, since it has been more than helpful to the local community.

We were getting up off our knees and heading in the right direction, but yesterday's news was very severe. It is important that we not start playing the blame game or scoring political points. All of us — public representatives, State agencies, the Department and the Minister — must work together to try to ensure that we can reverse this as completely as we reversed the previous situation in Kantoher.


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