Dáil Éireann - Volume 342 - 10 May, 1983

Private Notice Questions. - Future of Dunlop Tyre Factory.

[620] Mr. Gene Fitzgerald, Mr. Lyons, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Wyse asked the Minister for Industry and Energy whether it is the Government's intention to provide State assistance, if necessary, to keep open the Dunlop tyre manufacturing factory in Cork.

Mr. J. Bruton: The four Deputies may be assured that the Government and the IDA will be making every effort to safeguard the tyre operation and the employment in Dunlop in Cork. To that end the Industrial Development Authority are in discussion with the company but it would be premature to comment at this stage on the outcome of these discussions.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: I accept and appreciate the delicacy of discussions of this nature. We wish to co-operate in any way we can if we can be helpful. Is there not an apparent difference of attitude between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on the issue? Would he accept that the Taoiseach's comments were not helpful?

Mr. J. Bruton: The reference made by the Taoiseach was in the context of nationalisation. He indicated that he did not believe that in the case of this firm nationalisation would be a solution. I have expressed the view on a number of occasions that a firm such as this can only survive in the long-term if it is successful in selling its products. Unfortunately there has been an inadequate performance in the sales of this operation. That is not a reflection on the workers involved. In any restructuring of the operation greater emphasis will have to be put on securing adequate sales performance. Otherwise, no matter who owns the company it will not succeed.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Will the Minister give an undertaking in the House that he will keep the four Deputies who asked the questions informed on a daily basis——

Mr. J. Bruton: If I receive information on a daily basis, depending on the nature of the information, I will consider [621] whether I can disclose it to Deputies. I do not mean that in an unhelpful way but I am sure that Deputy Fitzgerald, from his ministerial experience, will appreciate that one receives information from time to time which is of a commercial and confidential nature and that I could not disclose that to the Deputy. However, if the Deputy and his three colleagues would like to keep in touch with me I will keep them briefed on what I can inform them. That invitation applies to all Deputies. I am anxious to make as much information as possible available to all Deputies representing all areas who have to face the problems at immediate level.

Mr. Wyse: In view of the enormous anxiety of the workers in Dunlop's, will the Minister verify whether negotiations were going on at a time when the Taoiseach made a statement which caused a lot of confusion among the workers. At the same time, the Minister was in contact with the IDA and the board of management of Irish Dunlop. Why did the Taoiseach make the statement at the time he did?

Mr. J. Bruton: As I indicated in reply to an earlier question, the Taoiseach said he did not see nationalisation as being the answer to the problem at Dunlop. I do not think that comment could have done anything but good in the context of the negotiations that the IDA were engaged in which were concerned with the private sector restructuring of the company. The thought that such negotiations might be thrown off course by moving in the direction of nationalisation would obviously not help discussions. What the Taoiseach said in relation to nationalisation would only help to clarify the situation. The discussions, I agree with the Deputy, are very important and this would help them to proceed on a proper and clear basis.

Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Can we take it that the Minister is giving an undertaking about the continued operation of the Dunlop plant? Are we being given an undertaking from the Government about the continued operation of the Dunlop [622] plant in some shape or form? My second question is: does the Minister agree that the Taoiseach should be advised not to interfere with or comment on delicate issues of this nature which he is obviously not familiar with?

Mr. J. Bruton: I indicated, if the Deputy had been paying attention, in response to his colleague, Deputy Wyse, that I believe the Taoiseach's intervention served to clarify the situation. It was helpful. The head of the Government is perfectly correct and indeed would be remiss in his responsibilities if he did not address himself from time to time to industrial problems of this nature. All parties in the House must recognise that the Taoiseach has shown himself willing to answer questions on subjects of this kind. I do not want to avoid answering the first part of Deputy Fitzgerald's question. The Deputy will realise that the Government cannot give undertakings of the sort he sought. The Government are seeking to achieve a viable solution and improved performance in terms of sales by this company. Until one is satisfied that one has a base on which sales can be expanded and profits made, obviously it is not possible to give undertakings of that sort. If I may refer again to Deputy Fitzgerald's ministerial experience, he will know that this kind of undertaking is not one he would have been able to give himself.

Mr. Lyons: The Minister said the Government cannot give an undertaking but I would ask, in view of the confusion that existed because information was not available to the workers and management in Cork, would the Government desist from causing any further confusion because of an obvious difference of opinion between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste? I want that assurance from the Minister and the Government. Have the Government or the Minister been in communication in any way with the people across the water, because they will be involved in any decision?

Mr. J. Bruton: I reject the inference in [623] the first part of the Deputy's question, and the answer to the second part is yes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Mac Giolla has been given permission to address a question to the Minister for Industry and Energy.