Dáil Éireann - Volume 428 - 30 March, 1993

Adjournment Debate. - Thurles (Tipperary) Plant Closure.

Mr. Lowry: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity [1352] to raise this issue on the Adjournment. It is with a sense of regret and sadness that I find it necessary to raise the matter of the sudden and rather abrupt closure of Tipperary textiles in Thurles with a loss of 64 jobs. This news has shocked and devastated the very loyal and dedicated workforce. They are disillusioned and demoralised and find it difficult to accept that their livelihoods and future have been swept from them in an unexpected swoop. Many of them with young families have heavy financial commitments, including mortgages. They are now to become an anonymous statistic with the other 300,000 unemployed. Their future is dark and bleak as alternative employment is not available in the locality.

This is a further hammer blow to an already depressed local economy. Thurles town has endured an alarming level of closures, job losses, rationalisation programmes and industrial stagnation. For 32 years Tipperary Textiles was an integral part of the commercial and economic life of the area. The loss of a £10,000 per week payroll, together with the impact on local supply and service companies, is substantial and significant. Thurles is fast becoming an industrial wilderness. It has paid a heavy price for Government neglect and indifference. Its commercial base has been eroded to such an extent that it cannot absorb blows like this without suffering permanent damage. The basic fabric of our town is now threatened.

I appeal to the Government to realise and accept the seriousness of the situation. The people of Thurles are tired of false and broken promises and the announcement of phantom jobs. They are jaded from soft talk, pious platitudes and ministerial humbug. They demand, and are entitled to, positive corrective action. They want their share of viable and sustainable job opportunities. Despite having so-called Ministerial clout, proposals for the provision of a third level institution in Thurles have been ignored. The proposal for the designation of Thurles under the urban renewal scheme was dismissed and, [1353] despite its geographic location and general suitability, the town has been overlooked under the Government's decentralisation scheme.

With regard to the closure of Tipperary Textiles, I ask that priority be given to protect and honour the entitlements of the workforce. I am also disturbed about and conscious of the immense damage which can be inflicted on the suppliers of services and materials who are owed substantial moneys by the company. Failure by the liquidator to raise sufficient funds from disposable assets to provide for these creditors will put other companies and jobs at risk.

I request the Minister in the first instance to mobilise all relevant State agencies to ensure that every effort is made to sell Tipperary Textiles as a going concern. Its product is excellent, the expertise and skill is available and the markets are sufficient to sustain a scaled down operation. It is imperative that, before final decisions are taken, an exhaustive study is carried out to ensure that all company property, plant and material are at the disposal of the liquidator in a concerted and determined effort to get the best deal possible for the despairing workforce and unfortunate creditors. I wish to place on the record of the House my intention to monitor the sale of the assets, the identity of the purchasers and the location to which the plant or equipment will be redeployed.

I strongly believe that the Minister's Department should have in place a formula and code of conduct which would apply to closure announcements. At present communication with the workforce on such serious and far-reaching decisions is haphazard and insensitive in many such instances. It is totally unacceptable that a worker can one minute be diligently performing his duty and minutes later be outside the door, locked out without a full and reasonable explanation for that decision. To be told one is no longer employed is a shattering and traumatic experience. It is a sad reality that all too often managment ignore the tragic and human consequences of their decisions and are more interested in conducting [1354] and implementing the economic and logistic diktats of their superiors. It is a deeply disturbing time for a workforce who deserve to be dealt with in a caring and sympathetic fashion.

The experience of Tipperary Textiles will be repeated throughout the country in the coming months as a result of Government policy and inaction. The textile industry has been mortally wounded by the impact of the currency crisis. My party Leader, Deputy John Bruton, was the only politician with the courage and vision to propose a devaluation of the Irish punt as a solution to the crisis. His sound advice was ignored by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste. Textile workers are now paying the penalty for this fiasco. To compound the problem, the Minister for Finance has imposed a further 5 per cent VAT penalty on the textile sector.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mrs. O'Rourke): I thank Deputy Lowry for raising this matter on he Adjournment. I share the Deputy's concern that the workers should be treated in as sensitive and caring a manner as possible. One would hope that all employers in similar situations would conduct their business in this way. I do not know enough about the way the workers were treated in this instance to comment on the matter, but I would be glad to speak to the Deputy about it.

I know the Deputy will be aware of the background to Tipperary Textiles. On occasions like this Ministers are given endless pages of background information which is of little relevance, because the person who raises the matter and the other Deputies from the area know much more that I would ever know about the background to the case. I am aware of the move from Rathdowney to Thurles.

The Deputy referred to the currency crises. The Government — I was very much involved in this — set up the market development fund. This is not to say that the fund on its own would have been able to work all the miracles one would have wished, but many firms were helped [1355] during that difficult period. The Deputy refered to Deputy John Bruton's call for devaluation — late in the day, I might add. He was trounced by his Finance spokesperson at that time in regard to the matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Government had to finally take my advice.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Deputy may laugh all he likes——

Mr. J. Bruton: Having criticised me, within a week the Government had to take my advice.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Deputy's voice is getting louder and shriller all the time.

Mr. J. Bruton: There is no need for me to speak in this instance as the facts speak for themselves.

An Ceann Comhairle: The interruptions must cease; they are not welcome.

Mrs. O'Rourke: For whatever reasons, Tipperary Textiles did not seek any help from the market development fund at that time. Perhaps in its wisdom it decided not to seek help.

As the Deputy knows, an official liquidator will be appointed at 6 April meeting. There will be various options before the liquidator at that time. I will ask the IDA, with whom I have been in contact today, to look at every aspect of Tipperary Textiles in the lead up to that meeting to see if any aspect of the company's activities can be retained. I will also speak with the Deputy and the IDA in an effort to monitor how the workers have been and will be treated. All of us share the distress which Deputy Lowry and the other Deputies from Tipperary naturally feel at an imminent closure of a company within their town.

The textile industry throughout Europe is gong through a bad time. The aim of the Community is to address this issue and make the industry strong again. [1356] There have been many casualties within the textile trade along the way. I hope that the position of Tipperary Textiles can be looked at again during the short time which remains.