Government’s ‘surprise’ at job losses under scrutiny

Government’s ‘surprise’ at job losses under scrutiny
Picture: Jim Coughlan

Additonal reporting by Gordon Deegan,and Joe Leogue

Business Minister Heather Humphreys is under pressure to explain why she and her department were given no advance warning about significant jobs losses in Cork and Clare. The criticism came after the announcement that 320 jobs are to go at Novartis in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, on a phased basis by mid-2022.

That news came 24 hours after Molex Ireland revealed it will close its facility in Shannon, Co Clare, by the end of next year with the loss of 500 jobs. Speaking in Shannon, Ms Humphreys said she has received no briefings from job development agencies of any further large-scale, imminent job losses.

However, during leaders’ questions, Labour leader Brendan Howlin gave voice to the surprise expressed by many that Ms Humphreys did not have any idea the Novartis and Molex announcements were coming. He criticised the lack of knowledge within the Government, given the Novartis review of its global operations has been ongoing for over a year.

In response, Mr Varadkar said sometimes companies don’t give advance notice of their plans. He said those who will lose their jobs will be entitled to a range of benefits from the State including jobseeker’s benefit and funds to enable them to go back to college and retrain.

Ms Humphreys cancelled her appointments yesterday to meet with stakeholders at the Enterprise Ireland offices in Shannon, where she said she is confident new jobs will be found for the people affected.

There are jobs available in this locality… It was said in the room that this has happened at a much better time than 10 years ago when there was huge unemployment.

Ms Humphreys said the unemployment rate was 16% 10 years ago, compared to 5.2% today.

She added: “I am absolutely convinced that there is a great future for this area.”

In Cork, a former county mayor said the Novartis announcement should come as a warning to policymakers who need to establish why the Cork facility was earmarked for closure following a global review of operations.

“We just have to get to the bottom of this, get behind the reasoning and see what type of reaction needs to come from a policy level because we cannot under any circumstances let complacency set in, that “Oh it’s just Novartis”,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath.

“We have to ask the hard questions, get the answers and respond.”

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