'We'll never go back to the days of having three butchers in a town'
My Week: Dominic Feely
'There's a time for everything - working in an abattoir is a young person's game." That's according to farmer, butcher and abattoir owner Dominic Feely, who has decided to put his abattoir facility in Daingean, Co Offaly up for sale.
Dominic has been in the business for over 50 years since he trained in Dublin and in that time he bought and sold his own butcher shop in Tullamore and bought a sheep farm.
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At the height of the abattoir's existence, Dominic had nine staff and worked 18-hour days, but in recent years it has wound down to a two-man operation.
"We did a good bit of wholesaling all over the country to places like Tullamore, Birr, Athlone, Roscommon, Kildare, Westmeath and Dublin," he recalls.
"We'd be up in the morning at 3.30am and deliver to Dublin and then we'd be back around noon and load off to deliver elsewhere.
"We'd then be loading the truck again at 10pm for the next morning. It was a very busy lifestyle but I enjoyed it.
"When the butcher shops closed on Moore Street in Dublin we had to wind down; it wouldn't have paid us to keep travelling up there."
Dominic says that the Abattoir's Act in 1988, which required operators to upgrade their facilities, caused many to exit the industry and adds that there are only four or five left in Offaly, with numbers decreasing countrywide.
Despite these dwindling numbers he still believes that there is a place for independent abattoirs in Ireland.
"Big factories wouldn't take animals that are injured and slaughter them, or they wouldn't do any speciality cuts, so that's where we come in," he explains.
"If you want a heifer for the freezer or a special striploin cut, that's what we do. The factories wouldn't entertain that kind of thing at all.
"The nearest one to here is Banagher, which is 40 minutes away; it's like that in every county now. We'd have people coming as far away as Kilcock and Maynooth to here."
But Dominic admits he is worried about the future of local butcher shops.
"I don't think we will have the days again of there being three or four butcher shops in a town, but I think there will always be one. It's a tough trade and so hard to compete with supermarkets," he says.
While not everyone is cut out for slaughter and butcher work, Dominic says he never had trouble finding employees, with locals, his own daughter and Brazilian workers all employed in the facility in the past.
Dominic will be sad to see the business go, but he feels it is a young person's game and would like to see the 5,000sq ft industrial site sold to someone with enthusiasm and industry.
"I'm 64, there's a time for everything. None of my three children wanted to take it on so I'd like to see it go to somebody who has drive and who is maybe from a farming background and who might have their own cattle," he says.
The factory is being brought to the market by Leinster Property Auction in partnership with Clement Herron Real Estate and is being offered at bids of over €160,000.
In conversation with Claire Fox
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