FEARS of further cutbacks are mounting at Johnston Press after the UK newspaper group moved 19 production jobs from Limerick to Antrim.
Johnston's printing presses in Limerick and Kilkenny are believed to be at immediate risk, while editorial jobs and salaries are expected to be cut before the summer is out.
The group's Irish boss Barry Brennan could not be contacted last night. Irish finance head John McNicholl said he had "absolutely no comment to make" on the latest developments.
Mr Brennan has previously said "everything" at Johnston's Irish operations is under review as the group looks to shave £30m (€34.8m) from its annual cost base.
The Irish operations are made up of the two printing presses, and 15 titles including the 'Limerick Leader', 'Leinster Leader', 'Kilkenny People' and 'Tipperary Star'.
Earlier this week, staff were told Johnston's "pre-press" facilities in Limerick were being moved to Antrim. The Limerick operation was set up two years ago, to provide layout and design services for the 15 Irish titles. Staff have been given the option of transferring to Antrim; this has not been well-received.
The development has heightened concerns at the Limerick printing press, where about 25 staff work. Johnston has a second printing press in Kilkenny employing similar numbers and the review is unlikely to leave both printing presses intact.
This week's move has triggered speculation that both the Limerick and Kilkenny printing presses could go in favour of a recently opened state of the art facility in Portadown, Co Armagh, in Northern Ireland.
Editorial staff at the 'Limerick Leader' and Johnston's other titles are bracing themselves for cutbacks after downbeat meetings with management.
Johnston was forced to abort plans to sell its Irish business in May, after "sufficiently high" bids failed to materialise.
Johnston hoped to make at least €70m from the portfolio, which cost well over €200m.