Seanad Éireann - Volume 152 - 04 December, 1997

Adjournment Matter. - Meeting with Tipperary Town UDC.

Mr. T. Hayes: The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, has been in the House for a number of hours and I apologise that he has to remain to deal with this matter.

I tabled this matter because, some months ago, a deputation from South Tipperary County Council, members of the urban council, representatives of business interests and public representatives met the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, in respect of the serious unemployment problem in Tipperary town. The closure of various companies has caused terrible concern in the area in recent years. Those companies included: Kiely's Bottling Company, which closed with the loss of 72 jobs; Tambrands, which closed early this year with the loss of 260 jobs; Mass Mutual, which closed with the loss of 57 jobs and Irish Pride Bakeries, which closed with the loss of 70 jobs. This represents a major blow to a town of Tipperary's size.

[1263] At present, Continental Promotions, Pall and Namco employ 125 people, while others have found employment in Tipperary Co-op and smaller industries. However, unemployment has reached an unacceptably high level in Tipperary town. Statistics from Tipperary employment exchange show that there were 985 people on the live register in August of this year. That represents an increase of 70 per cent in the numbers unemployed since 1978. With the success of the Celtic tiger in other towns and cities, the people of Tipperary are at a loss to understand what will happen to their town.

Tipperary town boasts the headquarters of Muintir na Tíre. It was once the most prosperous town in Munster, but sadly it is now the most neglected. Successive Governments have been made aware of the problems in Tipperary town. In fairness to the current and previous Administrations, Ministers met delegations and listened to their pleas. However, no action has been taken.

I raised this issue because I want to know what are the Minister's plans for Tipperary town, which is one of the areas most affected by unemployment. Traditionally it was a market town dependent on agriculture, but the major sea changes in the structure of that industry have affected Tipperary more than any other town. That is one of the reasons for the town's unemployment problem. What plans does the Government intend to put in place to help Tipperary town?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. N. O'Keeffe): I thank the Senator for raising this important matter and I apologise for the Tánaiste's absence.

The meeting with Tipperary Town UDC, to which the question refers, took place on 1 October 1997. At the meeting interest was expressed regarding the provision of an advance factory in the area. All new advance buildings are now provided by the private sector. IDA Ireland does not directly finance the provision of advance factories. A limited number of these buildings can be funded each year under the business expansion scheme — BES — and IDA Ireland has already had contact with representatives of Tipperary town in regard to BES funding of such a factory. However, the permitted number of BES certificates has been allocated for this year and there are BES advance factories underway in Cashel and Carlow, with vacant private units in Dungarvan and Waterford, all in the south-east region. It is important to phase the provision of private factories to ensure a regional spread and to ensure that privately provided factories are occupied quickly.

IDA Ireland will be happy to discuss the timing of a private BES advance factory in Tipperary [1264] town with the chamber of commerce. To this end, the Tánaiste has requested Barry Condron, south-east area director, IDA Ireland, to arrange a meeting with members of the business community in Tipperary town who have expressed an interest in the provision of this advance factory.

To assist in the attraction of new industry and facilitate the development of existing industry in Tipperary town, Forbairt is working closely with the community to assist with the establishment of a community enterprise centre. A 5,000 square foot building has been donated by Tambrands to the town for the purpose of setting up such a centre.

The promoters of the centre, West Tipperary Enterprise Group, are currently carrying out a feasibility study, which has been grant aided by Forbairt. The initial report is completed and the final report on the feasibility study will be ready in one month. The initial report indicated that there is a need for enterprise space in Tipperary town and the final report will consider how best the centre can attract new industry.

As a result of major closures in IDA Ireland assisted industries, namely, Tambrands and Mass Mutual in Tipperary town and Schiesser in Car-rick-on-Suir, an inter-agency group was established to seek alternative industries for these areas. The group was set up in October 1996 and includes Forbairt, IDA Ireland, FÁS, county council and county enterprise board representation. Since then, a replacement industry, Pall Corporation, with a 250 job commitment, has been approved by IDA Ireland for Tipperary town as has Continental Promotions International with a 40 job commitment.

Mr. T. Hayes: I understand and appreciate that the Minister of State has been thrown in at the deep end but the reply with which he was provided leaves much to be desired. Tipperary town is different from Dungarvan or Cashel. Public representatives and the county's entire business community agree this is unique. I ask the Minister to request the Tánaiste to do something for this town. The Minister stated there is a commitment to create 250 jobs there but that is not the reality.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I have allowed the Senator a certain amount of latitude; he has had an opportunity to make his point.

Mr. T. Hayes: The situation is not as stated by the Minister of State. Will he speak to the Tánaiste and report back to me on the matter?

Mr. N. O'Keeffe: I assure the Senator that we will address the problem.

The Seanad adjourned at 2.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 December 1997.