Dáil debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael MoynihanMichael Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise the announcement last Friday of the closure by Irish Pride of its plant in Kanturk. This results in the loss of 76 full-time and 20 part-time jobs in the town.

This bakery started out as Keating's Bakery until Irish Pride took it over in 1997. Many generations of Kanturk people have worked in the industry which provided much needed employment in the town since 1914 when Keating's Bakery first opened. The closure has baffled the workers. I spoke to many of them on Friday evening and to management and local people over the weekend. They do not know why Irish Pride closed the Kanturk bakery although it was the first bakery and one of the only ones to receive the ISO 9002 award.

Yesterday on the local radio station the shop steward spoke of the shock, dismay and anger of the workers. Many of the workers who heard the news at 4 p.m. on Friday have mortgages and borrowings, and spending commitments for education and so on. It is a terrible blow to them and also to the people of Kanturk.

For some time people in the area surrounding Kanturk have been baffled by the failure of State agencies to attract industry into the area. Over the past eight or nine years I have been in constant contact with the then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the State agencies, and more recently with the current Minister, Deputy Martin. I brought the chief executive officers of the main State agencies, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, there to try to advance the issue of creating jobs in Kanturk.

I am delighted the Minister is taking the debate in person tonight. What efforts have these State agencies made to market Kanturk? There is a great deal of employment in the surrounding towns, Millstreet, Charleville, Newmarket and Mallow. Unfortunately, we seem to have a serious problem attracting employment into Kanturk, the capital of the Duhallow region, one of the oldest and largest baronies in the country. It has a central location, although many years ago people did not think so. However it is close to Cork city, Tralee, Limerick and to the airports in Cork and Farranfore and the port of Cork. It is baffling that it is unable to sustain employment.

In 2000, after the Government announced its decision to consider towns as locations for decentralisation I made a submission to the Department of Finance suggesting Kanturk for this programme. Great credit is due to the Government for announcing its inclusion in the decentralisation programme, but that was two years ago. We need to move that agenda forward, particularly in light of the closure of the Irish Pride bakery and bring jobs into Kanturk.

I appeal to the Minister and all the agencies under the aegis of his Department to get together. I spoke on Friday afternoon to the new assistant county manager in charge of north Cork and to many agencies since then. As somebody said at the weekend it is time to get off the fence, take the finger out and take action for Kanturk. The town has many attractions as one of the central towns of Duhallow. I am fed up listening to people say they are marketing the town and so forth. It is time for real action. We need to reassure the workers who left Irish Pride on Friday evening that all the State agencies, the Government and I as a local representative, are doing all that we can to ensure employment is found for this wonderful town and people.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I too was very concerned to hear that Irish Pride Bakeries Limited in Kanturk had announced that it was closing with the loss of 76 full-time and 20 part-time jobs.

I am conscious of the effect these job losses will have on the workers involved and their families, as well as the community in the surrounding area. This is very disappointing news for those who will lose their jobs given the long history of the bakery as outlined by Deputy Moynihan.

The State agencies will provide every support they can. The priority will be to find alternative employment for those involved. The job losses will be in production and administration but ten distribution jobs will be maintained. The reason for the closure is that it is no longer viable for the company to continue, as the Kanturk bakery is loss-making and is no longer a viable production unit. The company was reviewing the situation for some time and, unfortunately, has arrived at this decision.

The industry has changed significantly in the past few years in response to more competitive market conditions. In view of the bakery's lack of viability, main-line production items will be transferred to Irish Pride's other plants in County Wexford and County Mayo. The company is consulting employees' representatives regarding the proposed redundancies and consultations will continue over the coming weeks. The decision to close is no reflection on the workforce but rather a recognition of the commercial realities of operating in the bread market and the company's decision.

The role of FÁS, the State training agency, will be particularly important in assisting those who are to lose their jobs. The agency has contacted the company, and a meeting has been arranged for Friday next. The full range of services will be made available to the affected workers and we urge them to avail themselves of them. FÁS has worked to great effect on similar situations in other localities where this has occurred. Finding alternative employment for the workers will be a priority for the State development agencies. I assure Deputies that IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, in addition to FÁS, will play their part in developing a way forward for the affected workers and the surrounding area.

Enterprise Ireland supported an initiative for the bakery in Kanturk under its Techstart programme in 1998. The agency's policy for the bakery sector is to support those companies that are exporting or demonstrating the capability to be able to service export markets. Enterprise Ireland also provides supports to the sector through research and development initiatives. The company has invested €10 million in Taghmon, County Wexford, which includes a new state-of-the-art plant that is doubling its capacity to produce a world-class range of products.

I know that IDA Ireland is promoting north Cork to potential investors from across the full range of its targeted sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information and communications technologies and internationally traded services. Every effort will be made to secure new, advanced, knowledge-based industry for the area. The agency's strategy for the county is to advance the development of a knowledge economy so that the region can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment and to work with the existing IDA Ireland client base to help them to develop further their presence in County Cork.

The recognition of the importance of Cork city as a major gateway location and Mallow as a hub will assist in promoting the entire region for inward investment. The town of Kanturk is marketed as part of the broader north Cork area. While IDA Ireland has only one client company in Kanturk, Packo Blackwater, which employs 32 people, it also has a land holding of 2.6 hectares available to both indigenous and overseas companies. Alps Electric, based in nearby Millstreet, which employs approximately 450 people, announced an expansion of its operation in December 2005, with the creation of 140 new jobs. I met the personnel and management of Alps Electric last year, when they came to see us. Other significant IDA Ireland-supported employers in the north Cork area include Molex in Millstreet, FCI and Sanmina SCI in Fermoy, and Kostal in Mallow.

I know that the loss of any full-time or part-time job is a severe blow to the Kanturk area. While I in no way wish to underestimate the loss of the bakery jobs, I am encouraged about the future in so far as County Cork is concerned. Already in 2006, two new projects have been announced for Cork which will result in 1,350 new jobs at full production. The recent Amgen announcement of 1,100 new jobs at an €820 million facility is of particular importance. That major global project has chosen Cork as its development location. In addition, Citco will create 250 new financial services jobs.

I am confident that the ongoing efforts of the industrial development agencies and local interests will continue to provide investment and job opportunities for Cork city and county. I will work with the Deputies and representatives from the local area to do all we possibly can to secure alternative industry for the Kanturk area.