Údarás na Gaeltachta is holding crisis meetings with the directors of a plastics company that was launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then jobs minister Richard Bruton in December 2014.
The state body ploughed over €200,000 into the Meath business in a variety of employment grants and rent subsidy.
Clearplas, based in Gaeltacht area Gibbstown, is currently the subject of an Údarás investigation into possible breaches of the waste permit it obtained from Meath County Council, as well as possible breaches of the lease and grant agreement entered into with Údarás.
Sean Kyne, the junior minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, recently revealed that Clearplas has been leasing a building from Údarás since October 2014.
To date, a total of €170,000 in employment grants and €41,631 in rent subsidy grants has been paid to the company by Údarás.
It had 23 full-time employees but from November to the end of February, the figure was gradually reduced to zero. It now reportedly has no full-time employees.
It is also believed Údarás is aware that the company is not trading, there is no electricity in the building, and the sorting machinery for its operations has been removed.
When contacted, Údarás stated: “We first became aware that the number of employees had fallen on December 2, 2015, management accounts for the company have been provided to us, and our executives have had a number of meetings with the company directors of late.
“These are in regard to possible breaches of the waste permit Clearplas received from Meath County Council as well as the lease and grant agreements it has with Údarás.
“In April this year, Údarás officially complained to the Health and Safety Authority, the HSE (Environmental Office), and Meath County Council fire and environmental officers.
“It would not be unusual for us to look for our money back from companies,” said a spokesperson.
When Clearplas was launched, Mr Kenny was pictured with its directors, Kells businessman Padraig Shine and Englishman Indrajit Singh Kapur.
However, a local TD is set to ensure the dramatic and unexplained collapse of the business will be investigated further.
Meath East’s Thomas Byrne (FF) put forward a parliamentary question about the current situation at Clearplas which elicited Mr Kyne’s response.
Mr Byrne said yesterday: “As a result of what I have been told, I am forwarding that information to the public accounts committee and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.”
Mr Shine claims he is determined to get things back on an even keel sooner rather than later.
“Look, if I was to sum my experience up in two words, they would be ‘tough going’,” he said.
“I lost €300,000 and my business partner lost more than twice that. I am aware Údarás na Gaeltachta lost over €200,000 and, as they told you, we are actively negotiating with them to resolve matters.
“As of yet, they have not asked for any of that money back but, at some stage, they will — I am sure of that much,” said Mr Shine.
“I’ll tell you something that may surprise a few people, I never even took a weekly wage out of the place; over two years I may have paid myself €15,000 and I always had to wait until all the staff cheques cleared before I could cash my own.
“I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m a businessman and sometimes things can go wrong — that’s the nature of the beast. However, I did not go into the business to lose money, and part of the talks I have been involved in with Údarás centre on the possibility of reopening the place.
“My ambition, and I am a fairly determined man when I set my mind to it, is that in some shape or form we will be up and running again before the end of 2017.”
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