Tuesday 20 February 2018

Kenny under fire for failing to deliver jobs in home town

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Michael Brennan and Caroline Crawford

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is selling the message to the world that Ireland is the best small country to do business.

But he's under fire in his home town for failing to deliver enough jobs locally.

Last week, Mr Kenny was on his latest trade mission to Japan, as the US financial bible 'Forbes' recognised the country's favourable environment for business. But back home in Mayo, there are still up to 150 vacant business premises in Castlebar and an empty IDA park, which has being lying idle for years.

The park has been branded a white elephant after costing €5m. Despite the good news of 150 new jobs at Northgate Information Solutions in Castlebar, the town was hit by the loss of 110 jobs in Baxter Healthcare last week.

Labour Party town councillor Harry Barrett warned Mr Kenny his leadership would be viewed as "a failure" at a local level if he failed to deliver 1,000 production jobs to the town.

"The Taoiseach's home town is in decline. I have spoken to him about this and warned that we won't get this opportunity in 10 years' time when there is another Taoiseach delivering for his constituency," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Kenny has personal experience in the past of dealing with job losses in Baxter. He recently described how he flew out to New York in 1985 when the company – then known as Trabenol – announced it was shutting down in Castlebar with the loss of 1,400 jobs.

He spent five-and-a-half hours in an office beside an aircraft hangar in John F Kennedy Airport waiting for two executives from the company.

"They flew in by private jet. I had my spiel ready to say: 'You can't close this plant'. I was gone five seconds and this fellow said: 'Listen, son, today we closed a plant in Hays, Kansas, and it will never re-open. At least yours gets a chance to live again'," he recalled.

Baxter Healthcare currently employs almost 1,000 workers at plants in Castlebar and Swinford, but this will drop by 110 people in Castlebar.

Fianna Fail jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said it was particularly worrying that Baxter was choosing to move some of its Castlebar operation abroad.

PRESSURE

"Baxter has been a major employer in Mayo for decades and many of the staff will have worked there for years," he said.

Local politicians are putting more pressure on Mr Kenny to deliver jobs for Castlebar, given the electorate gave Fine Gael an unprecedented four out of five seats in Mayo.

There are still more than 2,300 people on the Live Register in the town – down by just 83 people since Mr Kenny took office.

Mr Kenny has promised locals he will put pressure on the IDA to deliver once the infrastructure in the town is in place. But he is also warning that he has no "magic wand".

And the IDA has made it clear that it cannot force companies to go to Castlebar even if Mr Kenny wants it to happen.

"The IDA cannot unduly influence a company to go to a particular part of the country unless it will make sense for their business – particularly when the company's alternative location may be Amsterdam, Barcelona or Munich," a spokesman said.

Mr Kenny is also under enormous pressure to develop a jobs hub around Knock Airport.

Local Fine Gael TDs such as Michelle Mulherin want a significant state investment in the airport once a report into its future is completed in the coming weeks.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said that he was determined to have job creation "in every part of the country".

Irish Independent

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