Naughten questions Minister on MBNA job losses

In Business & Jobs, South Leitrim by Denis Naughten

Local TD Denis Naughten has questioned the Jobs Minister, Richard Bruton TD, on action being taken to secure alternative employment for the MBNA staff laid off last month.
Raising the issue in the Dáil, Denis Naughten said: “While it is all well and good to see job creation and job announcements on the east coast, the reality is that parts of my constituency have been decimated by unemployment, particularly in a town such as Carrick-on-Shannon.”

He went on to ask Minister Bruton “what progress has been made in moving forward on the preliminary inquiries about the facility from both from foreign-owned and Irish-owned businesses?”

Responding to the question Minister Bruton stated: “There are a number (of leads) both on the Enterprise Ireland side and the IDA Ireland side. These are still active and the leads are still very much alive.”

He went on to say: “The Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, has also had meetings on opportunities either in the financial services or procurement area. We are actively pursuing every opportunity; it is not a case of there being any loss of attention to it.”

In conclusion Deputy Naughten pressed the Minister to redouble efforts over the coming three months to see if progress can be made in sourcing an alternative employer for the site.

ENDS.

Editor’s Note: transcript from Dáil debate.

Dail Eireann
17th December 2014
^ Other Questions ^
^^ Job Losses ^^
6. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to secure jobs at the MBNA site in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48000/14]

Deputy Denis Naughten: At the end of last month MBNA closed its facility in Carrick-on-Shannon and the final 160 staff were laid off. At its height MBNA employed 1,100 people in Carrick-on-Shannon. While it is all well and good to see job creation and job announcements on the east coast, the reality is that parts of my constituency have been decimated by unemployment, particularly in a town such as Carrick-on-Shannon. What is the Minister doing to try to secure an alternative employer for the town?

Deputy Richard Bruton: I share the Deputy’s concern about the loss of any job but particularly the loss of a job in a town such as Carrick-on-Shannon in which MBNA had been such a major employer. A series of actions are being implemented by local and national bodies to source an alternative employer and find alternative employment for those impacted on by the MBNA redundancies which, unfortunately. took effect on 28 November. An interagency group led by Enterprise Ireland has been formed and its membership includes representatives of all the relevant State players. The group has met on a monthly basis and is providing for the taking of a co-ordinated approach to meeting the needs of the affected staff and ensuring all necessary steps are put in train to pursue an alternative investor. I have kept in regular contact with our agency representatives on the group.
The activities of the group include the following. Details of staff skills and the capabilities of the facility have been collated. IDA Ireland, with MBNA-Bank of America, has produced a marketing pack for potential investors. The global IDA Ireland team continues to market the MBNA facility to a range of potential investors through its network. Enterprise Ireland is marketing the facility to its client base. There has been a small number of preliminary inquiries about the facility, both from foreign-owned and Irish-owned businesses, but it is too early in the process to be specific about their potential.
The work of the inter-agency group will continue and IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will work to market the MBNA facility to a range of potential investors and to respond to requests for information from potential interested parties.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I bring the Minister back to his comment that there has been a small number of preliminary inquiries about the facility, both from foreign-owned and Irish-owned businesses. He gave me that comment in the House three months ago. What progress has been made in moving forward any of these preliminary inquiries in the past three months?

Deputy Richard Bruton: There are a number both on the Enterprise Ireland side and the IDA Ireland side. These are still active and the leads are still very much alive. Many of them hinge on the key requirement of winning an additional contract. As the Deputy knows, when MBNA withdrew, it did not leave behind a body of work that a new investor could simply take up as its starting point. That is undoubtedly a constraint that needs to be worked through. There have been a number of site visits by the interested parties with which both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are continuing to work. I have met representatives of the local authority and the county manager. The Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, has also had meetings on opportunities either in the financial services or procurement area. We are actively pursuing every opportunity; it is not a case of there being any loss of attention to it. I keep in regular contact with the team and we will do our very best to find something.

Deputy Denis Naughten: The Minister is correct in saying MBNA did not leave behind a body of work. However, it had a body of work on offer for sale for the two years prior to its announcement that it would close. The inter-agency group was established after MBNA announced it would close the facility in November. Should that group have been established when Bank of America announced it was getting out of the business in Carrick-on-Shannon and looking for a potential buyer? The agencies sat back rather than being proactive and establishing the inter-agency group at that stage when there was a body of work that might have attracted an alternative employer.

Deputy Richard Bruton: That is not accurate. IDA Ireland was very active with Bank of America in the process of seeking a buyer. Clearly, that issue was pursued, both nationally and internationally. As the Deputy knows, they succeeded in finding a buyer for the domestic book but not for the UK book. From the MBNA’s point of view, declining volumes of activity and its very substantial site in Chester resulted in it making a decision that we could not overcome. The point about the inter-agency group is that obviously there are new needs in terms of the role of social protection, training and other bodies in that context. There was very active engagement. I engaged frequently with Bank of America during tht process as it sought interested buyers for the book. Clearly, there is a very talented workforce with a very high level of experience in terms of compliance in the financial sector. We continue to work really hard to pursue an opportunity.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I thank the Minister for the interest he has taken in the issue and know that IDA Ireland has been pushing the issue internationally. I ask the Minister to take a personal interest in the matter in the coming months. There is a very tight window if we hope to attract an alternative employer. The financial services sector in Dublin is expanding rapidly and there is a squeeze on available staff in the Dublin region. There is, however, a window of opportunity to source an alternative employer to be located in Carrick-on-Shannon. I urge the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, to redouble their efforts and try to source an alternative employer for this location in the near future.

Deputy Richard Bruton: I accept that. One of the avenues we are exploring is to see if there are companies with established businesses that are in an expansion phase and would consider this a suitable location to complement to what they are already doing at other locations such as Dublin. We are actively pursuing that issue.

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