Sunday 22 April 2018

Bruton aims for 20,000 factory jobs with expert group help

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton is setting up an expert group to try to create 20,000 more factory jobs -- exactly six years after Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was warned manufacturing needed special attention.

And the new group is being established over three years after it was ready to be appointed, but former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan did not sign off on it.

The expert group will come up with a new industrial policy aimed at creating 20,000 jobs in manufacturing -- a sector where the numbers employed have dropped by 80,000 since the turn of the century.

Mr Bruton is giving the Manufacturing Development Forum six months to come up with a plan for an area which he regards as crucial to the economic future of the country.

The group will be made up mainly of figures from the private sector, including senior executives in major manufacturing firms in the country, both Irish and multinational.


Areas like food, engineering and the health and life sciences will be represented, along with Government job development agencies, Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Forfas and some academics.

The alarm bells about the decline in the manufacturing sector have been going off for years, yet little was done by the previous government.

Mr Martin, the Enterprise Minister at the time, said a high-level group would be set up to look at the challenges facing the manufacturing sector.

A report from this high-level group came back in April 2008 and called for the establishment of a Manufacturing Forum to drive implementation of the recommendations.

Mr Martin said at the time that he welcomed the recommendation to continue this "focus on collective action" by setting up a Manufacturing Forum.

Mr Martin was replaced by Ms Coughlan in the department a month later.

Nine months later, in January 2009, the department was ready to appoint the Manufacturing Forum, with Glanbia director of manufacturing Jim O'Neill as its chairman.

A letter to Mr O'Neill was drafted for Ms Coughlan to sign, noting the importance of the forum.

However, the letter was never signed or sent and the Manufacturing Forum was never set up.

Meanwhile, the number of jobs in manufacturing continued to decline from the height of 321,000 in 2000 to 238,500 in 2010.

Irish Independent

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