Wednesday 24 May 2017

Northern firm wins lucrative contract to dress Army

Don Lavery

Firms based in the North are now dressing the Irish Army -- and are winning lucrative Defence contracts.

Companies north of the Border have won a series of clothing contracts beating firms in the Republic and elsewhere, while another Northern company is outfitting the Navy's flagship, the 'LE Eithne'.

A company in the North -- which sources many of its products in China -- has won a major contract to supply the Irish Defence Forces with camouflage uniforms.

Cooneen Watts and Stone of Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone -- already a major supplier of uniform clothing to police and military around the world -- won the €2.1m contract to supply the Irish Army with dispersal pattern material (DPM) -- or camouflage uniforms -- over a three-year period.

The competition for the contract was run by the Office of Public Works, which initially expected it would cost €3.5m to supply the army with combat uniforms.

However, Cooneen Watts and Stone came in with a bid of €2.1m and won the contract.

The company, with managing director Eugene Greene, was a finalist in the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The firm was formed in 2004 as a joint venture company between two local businesses, Cooneen Textiles, Fivemiletown, and Watts and Stone of Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh.

The company, which was involved in the development of the UK's combat clothing range for the Future Soldier programme, specialises in sourcing competitive quality products from manufacturers around the world, while controlling the design, administration and logistics from its base in the North.

It is understood that Cooneen Watts and Stone sources 95pc of its products from manufacturing locations in Morocco, Lithuania, Poland, China and other countries.

The firm was at the centre of controversy when the British ministry of defence gave a £5m (€5.8m) contract to supply socks for the British army to the Co Tyrone firm, which will source them in China.

The British firm which lost the contract, HJ Hall -- which had supplied socks to the British military for 80 years -- said British service personnel would now get the "cheapest" option.

The British MoD, however, said Cooneen Watts and Stone offered the best value for money.

Weapons

It is not the first time that firms outside the Republic have won contracts to equip the Irish Defence Forces with clothing and other essential items.

Lowe Alpine (UK), of Cumbria, recently won a €1.8m contract to supply the Irish Army with battlevests, and a €700,000 contract for pack rations went to Far Side Marketing, also in the UK.

While weapons, ammunition, and heavy equipment are normally sourced abroad, Irish firms usually win contracts for basic food and other items.

These have included tenders for frozen foods: €250,000 to Allied Foods of Tallaght; a €118,000 tender to Nest Box Eggs of Co Monaghan; a €350,000 contract for fresh chicken and turkey to Pallas Foods of Limerick; a €250,000 contract for fresh bread to Johnston Mooney & O'Brien, and a €630,000 contract for bottled water to Celtic Pure of Co Monaghan.

Irish Independent

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