County manager Martin Riordan is being urged to put forward a case for a proposed national beet factory to be built on a former Army firing range.
Councillors from the north Cork region voted unanimously to request Mr Riordan to “do everything in his power” to locate any new plant at Kilworth camp.
The Department of Defence-owned land had previously been designated for a new ‘super prison’ — which did not progress.
Cllr Noel McCarthy (Lab), chairman of the county council’s northern division, proposed a motion stating the Army range would be an ideal location. Beet Ireland, he said, was planning to set up a new processing plant in the country. “There are hundreds of acres there and it wouldn’t affect army activities. Part of the land was earmarked for a prison by the last government but that will no longer go ahead.”
He said Kilworth is a very central location in Munster and has easy access to the M8 Cork-Dublin motorway.
“It’s estimated that around 500 jobs would be created during construction and a further 300, thereafter. This would really benefit Fermoy, Mitchelstown and the surrounding areas if the factory was located there,” he said.
Cllr Frank O’Flynn (FF), an ex-beet grower and former shareholder with Greencore — which once operated Irish Sugar — said he was also fully in favour of the move.
“The industry will return to Ireland. It was an industry which we should never have got rid of,” he said.
It was quickly pointed out to him by Cllr Noel O’Connor (FG) that it was the FF-led Government which closed the country’s last sugar beet plant in Mallow in 2006.
The European Court of Auditors — the spending watchdog of the European Union — subsequently determined the closure of the plant was unnecessary.
“The then taoiseach [Brian Cowen] and minister for agriculture Mary Coughlan didn’t listen to our protestations at the time,” Cllr O’Connor claimed.
Since then, a concerted effort has been made to reopen a sugar producing plant in Ireland. The Government is now said to be confident it will happen by 2015.
Cllr Tom Sheahan (FG) said: “The price of sugar has increased on international markets by two-and-a-half times since the Mallow plant was closed. And that plant was viable back in 2006.”
Cllr O’Connor, meanwhile, said Mallow should also be taken into consideration if the old Greencore site in the town proved suitable for a new factory.
“It would be great to see a beet factory back in North Cork whether it be in Mallow or Kilworth,” Cllr John Paul O’Shea (Ind) said.
Cllr McCarthy said while he would prefer the Kilworth location, he was not against including Mallow as an option, so long as North Cork benefited.
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