US president Donald Trump intervened to help safeguard hundreds of jobs in the Limerick region after the impact of sanctions against Russia threatened to damage the Aughinish Alumina plant.
The US Treasury announced in December that it would lift sanctions that had been imposed on the plant’s Russian parent company Rusal.
Mr Trump confirmed in the White House this week that he had a role in this.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to thank him for his help, saying that “hundreds of jobs were threatened as a result of the Russian sanctions. And with the help of the administration, we were able to save those jobs.”
Mr Trump replied: “That’s right. They [the press] don’t know about that.”
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman confirmed that the threat of the sanctions on the plant was first raised at last year’s Washington DC meeting with Mr Trump. Mr Varadkar had said a lot of jobs depended on it, that the plant was important for EU aluminium producers and for Irish exports.
Mr Trump asked his officials to then look into the issue. US authorities then designed a solution so that Aughinish did not fall under the sanctions regime.
A restructuring deal was then agreed to end Russian oligarch and billionaire Oleg Deirpaska’s control of Rusal.
In January, the US Senate then voted to support the White House efforts to lift the sanctions.
Around 700 workers and contractors are employed at the Aughinish Alumina plant near Askeaton, making it one of Limerick’s biggest employers.
Rusal supplies 6% of the world’s aluminium and operates mines, and refineries in locations including Ireland Jamaica, and Russia.
Irish ambassador to the US Daniel Mulhall had warned of the “unintended consequences” of the sanctions on communities such as Aughinish, with 700 direct jobs at stake and another 1,000 who depend indirectly on it.