Thursday, 13 December 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. D. Moynihan: Ba mhaith liom an cheist seo a ardú annso anocht. Last August, the announcement of the closure of GSI in Macroom came as a bombshell to the people of the area. Not alone did this closure have a devastating effect on the town, but on the whole locality. The employees in this factory came from the surrounding area, within a radius of about 20 miles. People travelled there from Dunmanway, Millstreet, Ballincollig and Killarney. It has affected the economy of the town of Macroom. It has also had a devastating effect on the rural community, as many small farming holdings were dependent on the second income generated by GSI. Many people who worked there have been in the factory since it opened, and in some instances both husband and wife were employed there. This will be a major factor in the repayment of house mortgages. Its closure has a knock-on effect on many local businesses, which depended on GSI, and the various suppliers to this enterprise. Thereby, the 700 redundancies could possibly be doubled when those other jobs are taken into consideration.
Following the closure of GSI, a task force was set up. The search for an alternative industry to locate in the GSI facility has been the main target  of this task force. The task force has now been in operation for more than four months. Numerous companies have been contacted and a brochure has been produced to market the facility, but it would appear that concrete results have not been achieved, and the plant is still empty. The success of this task force can only be measured in terms of achieving its goal, which is to find a replacement industry or industries. Reports are made available, but will this task force be wound down like the one set up at the Monyleke factory in Dunmanway and wound down recently without any replacement industry found? I understand this premises is now used as a warehouse. This would not be a satisfactory outcome for the GSI plant.
Is the IDA pursuing any definite line of action? Is there any conclusive evidence that the task force has produced results. I know a small number of people have been re-employed, mainly in Cork city, and others have gone on courses with FÁS and to further education. However, this is not the answer to the problem that exists following this closure, and will not be a solution in the long-term. The creation of jobs is what is needed in Macroom, either through a new company or a number of smaller industries.
Following the announcement of the closure of General Semiconductor on 17 August, 2001, the Tánaiste immediately agreed to the establishment of a task force for the area. At the same time, she asked IDA Ireland and FÁS – the National Training Authority – to mobilise their resources to ensure that no time was lost in responding to the closure. The Macroom task force was subsequently established on 20 August, 2001. The terms of reference were as follows: to make proposals and to advise the Tánaiste in response to the situation in Macroom, arising from the closure of General Semiconductor; to secure alternative job creating enterprise both from overseas and indigenous investors for Macroom; to provide an immediate skills assessment and suitable training opportunities for the workers affected by the closure of General Semiconductor; to provide the necessary information and assistance to any employees who may wish to establish their own enterprises; and to assess the infrastructure needs of the Macroom area, having regard to the significant work already undertaken in the context of preparations for a new Cork area development plan. The task force report is on the point of completion and the Tánaiste looks forward to examining it in detail.
Since the closure announcement, the search for a new project to locate in the facility in Macroom has been a key priority task for IDA Ireland. It is encouraging that six companies have now vis ited the facility. IDA Ireland is targeting the following options to seek a new project: a new Greenfield project from overseas; an expansion-led project from the existing base of overseas companies in Ireland that may require a new building-location; a detailed re-targeting of companies that visited Cork recently – details of the facility will be sent to these companies to encourage them to include the GSI building in their location analyses; and an urgent follow-up on any location queries generated by the publicity surrounding the closure announcement.
The key target sectors are as follows: pharmaceuticals and medical devices; international services; and information and communications technologies. A promotional brochure produced by the task force and funded by General Semiconductor has been distributed to IDA Ireland offices, IDA project divisions and to target companies world-wide. The task force chairman has met the chief executive officer of IDA Ireland and received an assurance that the search for a new project in Macroom will continue to be a priority task for the IDA.
In addition, the vice president of General Semiconductor Ireland, Macroom – also a member of the task force – recently met the IDA world-wide marketing director in New York and the director of IDA, Asia-Pacific in Taiwan. Progress in the search for a new project will be reviewed and monitored regularly by the IDA regional office in Cork. In reaction to the closure announcement, FÁS conducted on-site registration interviews and 506 employees from a total available work force of 629 registered with FÁS. FÁS has put in place a structured skills programme which commenced in October, 2001, while other training and education supports have also been available to the employees.
A considerable number of the staff have already obtained alternative employment. Macroom, being midway between Cork and Killarney, is well positioned to facilitate future industrial development. Two planned major road schemes, the Ballincollig bypass and Macroom bypass, will further enhance access. I assure Deputy Donal Moynihan, on behalf of the Tánaiste, that every possible effort is being made to secure a replacement industry, and by FÁS to secure alternative employment for the work force affected.
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