Friday 9 December 2016

Company run by Fine Gael election candidate received over €200k in State aid to create high-tech jobs that lasted just over a year

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Enda Kenny shakes hands with Padraig Shine, director of recycling firm Clearplas, in 2014. Photo: Paul Sherwood

A company run by a former Fine Gael election candidate received more than €200,000 in State aid to create high-tech jobs that lasted just over a year.

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The launch of recycling firm Clearplas in the Meath Gaeltacht was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then Jobs Minister Richard Bruton in late 2014 and promoted as proof that the government's Action Plan for Jobs was working.

The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Údarás na Gaeltachta handed over €170,000 in employment grants and to date has subsidised rent worth €41,631 on the understanding that 19 full-time jobs would be sustained for at least five years.

However, the company began winding down last November and by February all its employees were let go.

The Irish Independent has learned that the company has failed to pay any rent on its premises in Gibbstown, Co Meath, since January and the machinery necessary for its operation has been removed.

Residents in the area are also furious that the site is now littered with substantial amounts of waste material.

The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The premises of Clearplas, in Co Meath, this week. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Clearplas's two directors are English businessman Indrajit Singh Kapur and Kells entrepreneur Padraig Shine, who ran in the local elections for Fine Gael in 1999 and attempted to challenge Minister of State Helen McEntee for a place on the party's by-election ticket in the wake of her father's tragic death in 2013.

Along with offering jobs grants, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the agency responsible for the economic development of the Gaeltacht, agreed to pay 50pc of Clearplas's rent for two years.

The company signed a lease on a premises for nine years and nine months with an annual rent of €66,609.

According to Údarás there was 23 people employed at one stage and the grants issued were "in line with the supports on offer to eligible businesses in the Gaeltacht".

However, a spokesperson added: "Should the company continue to breach the terms and conditions of the grant agreement between it and Údarás na Gaeltachta, the repayment of all grants paid to the company will be sought as is the norm."

It is understood that the company ran into difficulty after struggling to get insurance cover because it was storing waste inside the facility as required in order to secure a waste permit from Meath County Council.

The waste was then moved outdoors, but locals residents objected to this on health and safety grounds.

Mr Shine told the Irish Independent that he is co-operating with both Údarás and Meath County Council, describing relations as "business-like".

"Both investors have lost over €1m in this project, which was to take plastic materials and recycle them in Ireland rather than send them abroad.

"We hope to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion, whether that's getting the plant up and running again or closing it cleanly," he said.

Meath County Council said it cannot comment on the case as it has been referred to its solicitors.

Meath East TD Thomas Byrne is to raise the issue with the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General.

"The only reason it came to my attention was because local residents were furious about the state of the place.

"There was an infestation of flies last summer after rubbish started piling up outside. That wasn't exactly what they were expecting when this new high-tech industry was announced for the area," he said.

Mr Shine said the waste material was dry plastic and he is working to remove it.

Irish Independent

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