Tánaiste’s Ballinasloe meeting must be followed by active IDA support – Naughten

In Business & Jobs, East Galway, News, South Roscommon by Denis Naughten

Local TD Denis Naughten has welcomed the high-level meeting between the Tánaiste and the enterprise agencies regarding Ballinasloe but stated it must now be followed through with “a determined effort by all agencies, especially the IDA, to promote the town of Ballinasloe and all it has to offer”.

The meeting by the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar with the West Regional Enterprise Plan steering committee follows a number of direct requests to do so by Denis Naughten TD and has been held in advance of the matter coming up for discussion again this week in Dáil Éireann.

“While this engagement by the Tánaiste is very welcome, it should have happened five months ago when the Aptar announcement was first made and I should not have had to take this matter to the floor of Dáil Éireann last month before the meeting finally took place,” said Denis Naughten.

“Such a meeting is normally standard practice following significant job losses and, as I pointed out to the Tánaiste last month, the Aptar closure in Ballinasloe with the loss of 115 jobs is the equivalent of 1,380 jobs going overnight in the city of Galway. In that situation such a meeting would have taken place immediately.”

Responding to Denis Naughten, the Tánaiste said: “I had intended to do something like that at the time, but we ran into other difficulties around Covid, as the Deputy mentioned. I am happy to commit to pulling together the agencies and having a particular focus on Ballinasloe over the next couple of weeks. That was in the work plan anyway, but I appreciate the reminder and I will follow up on it. I do not know if it will produce any results, but it is definitely worth a try. We are determined to ensure we find a replacement employer and secure a significant investment in Ballinasloe as soon as possible, if not in the next couple of years”.

“I accept the Tánaiste has a lot to deal with in Government and appreciate he has followed through on the commitment he gave to me last month,” added Denis Naughten. “I welcome the briefing on the meeting that he has provided with regard to the under-utilised lands at St. Brigid’s in Ballinasloe.

“I now hope following his comments that the IDA will secure and develop the 50 acres of land in question, and also construct an advance factory to capitalise on the demand for such lands and facilities across the midland towns.

“I also hope that we now see a co-ordinated marketing strategy for a unique IDA site with such a large State-owned land holding that has access to gas, water, wastewater and fibre in abundance,” concluded Denis Naughten.

ENDS.

Editor’s Note: See Dáil debate below.

Dáil debates

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Ceisteanna (Atógáil) – Questions (Resumed) – Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh – Priority Questions

Job Losses

 

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

  1. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 15 October 2020, the steps he is taking to replace the job losses in Ballinasloe, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35059/20]

 

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

Last August, Aptar announced the closure of its operation in Ballinasloe with the loss of 115 jobs. To put it in perspective, this is the equivalent of 1,380 jobs going overnight in the city of Galway. There has not been the same level of focus on the town of Ballinasloe as there would be with a similar scale of job losses in Galway city and we need a proactive approach to be taken by Government led by the Tánaiste.

 

Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)

I thank the Deputy for his interest in this issue. He raised it with me previously, as have Deputy Fitzmaurice and Senators Dolan and Murphy.

I was disappointed to learn of the decision by Aptar to close its facility in Ballinasloe. My primary concern, as I said previously, is for the workers and families who have been impacted by this decision in losing their jobs at a very difficult time. The Government is doing what it can to help them transition and find new employment opportunities.

Now that the decision has been taken to close the facility, IDA Ireland is working closely with the company to market the plant to potential investors. IDA Ireland has introduced a number of companies that are interested in the Ballinasloe facility to the Aptar management team and has arranged visits to the site. These discussions are ongoing. In the meantime, IDA Ireland continues to market the site to both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland clients.

IDA Ireland is in regular contact with the company and I understand it spoke with management on Friday last, 6 November, to discuss the wind-down of the facility. I am told that 19 staff remain employed at the site and that at least 60 former staff have found similar employment in the region. The IDA Ireland regional team has connected employees of Aptar with the local Intreo office as well as the local enterprise office, LEO, regional skills forum west, and the Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board, ETB.

While the announcement of job losses at Aptar is very disappointing, I assure the Deputy that the Government and its agencies are working to create employment opportunities in the west and across all of our regions.

Just this week, I was happy to announce the creation of 200 new highly skilled jobs in Galway, which will be created by an IDA Ireland client company, Diligent.  However, I note the Deputy is keen to attract new investment to Ballinasloe in particular. While the period ahead may prove challenging, securing new foreign direct investment for our regions is a priority for the Government.

 

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

I thank the Tánaiste for his reply. It is positive that 60 of the staff have found employment but the difficulty is that they are finding it not in Ballinasloe but elsewhere. I would like the Tánaiste to chair a meeting of all of the State agencies, along with the two local authorities in counties Galway and Roscommon, to implement a co-ordinated strategy specifically for the town of Ballinasloe. Previously, when there were significant job losses in various locations, the Tánaiste’s predecessors did that on the ground in the affected community. I accept that is not physically possible because of Covid-19 but I ask that he bring all of the players around the table remotely to look at the opportunities available to Ballinasloe. The town has significant resources and infrastructure that are not available in other towns but it always seems to be one decision short of securing critical investment.

 

Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)

It is important to note that 21,000 people are now employed in IDA Ireland supported firms in the entirety of County Galway. That is a substantial increase on 2010 when there were only just over 11,000 people so employed. The increase in the figure, from just over 11,000 people in 2010 to 21,000 people now, is huge. I appreciate that the vast majority of that employment is probably in Galway city and the area around it, rather than in the east or west of the county. In the past, it was customary to establish task forces when there were major job losses. We have now moved to a different approach, which is having a regional enterprise plan steering committee for the west region. I intend to meet the steering committee in the coming weeks and we will definitely ensure Ballinasloe is on the agenda.

 

Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)

I accept that the steering committees have been set up but there is a steering committee in the mid-west. When Molex Ireland closed in Shannon, the then Minister, Deputy Humphreys, went to Shannon and brought all of the players around the table. I am asking the Tánaiste to do the same because the one thing that Ballinasloe has going for it is the infrastructure. It has industrial land available and in State ownership, through the HSE, at St. Brigid’s Hospital. It has water, waste water and fibre capacity. It is 15 minutes away from the new technological university in Athlone. There are major opportunities to secure foreign direct investment into a campus which is 15 minutes from the dead centre of this country. Ballinasloe is close to Athlone, a town with serious infrastructural challenges, yet it seems we cannot secure investment in Ballinasloe. The Tánaiste needs to take a leadership role on this to ensure we secure major investment.

 

 

Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)

As the Deputy says, Ballinasloe is very well located and has access to a lot of the key infrastructure that is needed. It is a good site. I had intended to do something like that at the time but we ran into other difficulties around Covid, as the Deputy mentioned. I am happy to commit to pulling together the agencies and having a particular focus on Ballinasloe over the next couple of weeks. That was in the work plan anyway but I appreciate the reminder and I will follow up on it. I do not know if it will produce any results but it is definitely worth a try. We are determined to ensure we find a replacement employer and secure a significant investment in Ballinasloe as soon as possible, if not in the next couple of years.