Seanad debates

Thursday, 6 May 2010

12:00 pm

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)

I thank Senators Wilson and O'Reilly for raising this matter which I take on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

In recent weeks the Minister has been in close and regular contact with the State agencies, the Quinn Group employee representatives and local public representatives, including Senator Wilson, across the political parties. That process of intensive engagement meant the Minister could immediately activate a co-ordinated emergency Government response. He has established an inter-agency team comprising Enterprise Ireland, FÁS, IDA Ireland, the relevant county enterprise boards, the Department of Social Protection and his departmental officials. Yesterday, the Minister announced that the former chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Mr. Dan Flinter, is to chair the inter-agency team in order the Government can put every support in place in responding to the needs of all those affected. He made the announcement following a meeting in Cavan with worker representatives of the company. Mr. Flinter's appointment is a strong signal of the importance the Government attaches to a co-ordinated and effective response to the voluntary redundancies in Quinn Insurance.

The primary focus of the inter-agency response team will be to support the affected employees to explore their options as to employment, setting up a business, education options and to outline the supports and training available to them. The first meeting of the inter-agency response team was held in Cavan on Friday, 30 April and it met again in Cavan on 5 May. With the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Smith, the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, met the joint administrators on 30 April and he met worker representatives yesterday.

Dedicated information centres staffed by the agencies are being established on-site in Cavan, Navan and Blanchardstown to support the affected workers. Staff briefing sessions will be held in Cavan, Navan and Blanchardstown to outline the supports available through Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and the county enterprise boards. A series of business start-up workshops will be run by Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise boards in Cavan, Navan and Blanchardstown, for those thinking of starting a business.

Enterprise Ireland is in communication with Quinn Insurance regarding the most appropriate and practical measures by the agencies concerned while also ensuring continuation of normal business at the locations affected. The agency will run briefings for the affected staff on the supports it can provide. Enterprise Ireland will also hold one-to-one clinics with individuals interested in starting a business.

The county and city enterprise boards have made themselves available to liaise with those considering self-employment or establishing their own micro-enterprises. I know the boards in the Meath, Cavan and Fingal areas are working together to provide an appropriate co-ordinated response to the announcement of the job losses at Quinn Insurance. The boards will endeavour to provide every support possible for those directly affected by this unfortunate situation who wish to establish a business or who just wish to explore the possibilities of self-employment. IDA Ireland will participate in all group endeavours to minimise the impact of the recent announcement. The agency will establish the range of skills currently in the company and will actively market these skills to all potential investors. Mr. Dan Flinter will have a major role to play in this regard.

The Minister has already been in contact with his Northern Ireland counterpart, Ms Arlene Foster MLA, with regard to the drawing down of European Union funding under the cross-border INTERREG programme for training initiatives and start-up business supports in the affected areas. Officials on both sides met on 4 May and they are now working on a funding proposal which will be submitted to the INTERREG programme when the next call for proposals is made in September.

FÁS will be making direct contact with the administrators and company management to discuss the services available from FÁS and the potential needs of the employer. It is important to establish how best FÁS can assist workers. Following this initial contact, an assessment will be made in relation to the level of FÁS intervention required. The Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills has already agreed that €1 million of the special fund for activation measures will be ring-fenced to fund upskilling activities for the Quinn employees affected.

The Senators will be aware that a key element in safeguarding the long-term viability of Quinn Insurance and in protecting the remaining jobs is the re-opening of its UK business, as Senator Wilson mentioned. In this regard, the decision by the Financial Regulator to allow the remainder of the private motor insurance business to reopen from 30 April is welcome.

The administrators are working on a proposal for the reopening of commercial lines of business in the United Kingdom which they will present to the Financial Regulator within the next ten days. Before making any decision on this matter, the Financial Regulator will have to be satisfied that any proposals stand up to scrutiny and are supported by robust and detailed information, actuarial analysis and pricing. As part of this approval process the UK Financial Services Authority will also have to be satisfied with the proposals.

These are difficult and uncertain times for the employees at Quinn Insurance. I assure the Senators and the workers and communities affected that the inter-agency team established by the Minister will give every support to assist the employees who lose their jobs and to create new employment opportunities for the people affected. I thank the Senators for raising this important issue.


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