The closure of a computer frame manufacturer with the loss of 89 jobs will be a major blow to the South Connemara region, it was claimed today.
Maysteel Teoranta was set up in Inverin in 1992 in a 60,000-foot factory supplied by Udaras na Gaeltachta.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Sean O’Tuairisg, who lives in the area, said the news of its closure had been a shock to the workforce.
“It’s a huge blow for South Connemara in particular. The factory was going well and this was a bombshell,” he said.
The American company was dependent on a contract to supply computer frames to IBM for most of its work.
IBM’s decision to award the contract to another company, believed to be in China, was the key factor in the closure.
Maysteel had received €2.1m in grants from Udaras na Gaeltachta up to last year.
Mr O’Tuairisg, who is a board member of Udaras, said talks would be held with local management to see if it was possible for some work to continue at the factory.
“There is a very good workforce there and good management, so they will be in a good position to take on other projects,” he said.
The workers at the plant were too shocked to speak to local radio after being told of the closure by the American chief executive of Maysteel.
Most of them come from the South Connemara region, but there are some foreign workers as well.
However, there are a number of other companies operating in the Killroe Industrial estate in Inverin, including the Canadian firm Bioniche which employs 120 people to manufacture sterile injectable products.
Meanwhile, a gas equipment manufacturer is to close its plant in Rathnew, County Wicklow, with the loss of 71 jobs.
Harris Calorific has decided to relocate its operations to a new factory in Eastern Europe before the end of next year.
The local Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) representative Joan Wisdom said the workers had been very disappointed by the announcement.
“The factory has been in Rathnew for the last 27 years. For a lot of those people, they would have that service there and the whole fabric of their lives has been around Harris Calorific,” she said.
Ms Wisdom said it would be difficult for many of the long serving workers to pick up the pieces and start again, particularly as manufacturing employment was scarce in Wicklow.
SIPTU had agreed a survival plan which would have seen new work practices introduced.
“They really did want that business to stay in Rathnew so they were prepared to work with local management with any ideas they came up with.
“It was presented to the US corporation but obviously the low pay cost in Eastern European countries was the key factor why the management decided to move elsewhere.”
Harris Calorific has bought a site in Poland.
The increasing competition from low-wage countries saw the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector fall by 3.4% in the last year.
The most severely affected area was the textile industry, where employment fell by 23%, followed by the leather products sector with a fall of 22.5% and 10% in the clothing sector.
Around 290,000 people – 14% of the Irish workforce – are employed in manufacturing,