200 jobs at risk if fertiliser plant closes

THE Board of Irish Fertiliser Industries and shareholders are to discuss the possible closure of the Co Cork plant

Today while the potential 200 job losses is expected to be raised at a cabinet meeting.

Workers’ representatives from the Marino Point plant at Cobh met yesterday with president of the European Parliament Pat Cox and Minister for Health Micheál Martin and emphasised that the plant was worth more than 16m to the local economy.

IFI worker director Stephen O’Riordan, who has been employed at the plant for the past 24 years, said he was confident senior politicians would realise the importance of the fertiliser industry to Ireland.

“Without IFI, Ireland would be the only country in Europe, east or west, without an indigenous fertiliser industry. There is a surplus of 1.5 million tons of fertiliser in Europe but, as we emphasised to Pat Cox, 2.5 million tons is imported into Europe each year from non-EU countries,” Mr O’Riordan said.

He also pointed out that a further 300 spin off jobs from the Marino Point plant could be in jeopardy if it was closed.

A glut in the European fertiliser market has put the plant under threat, Mr O’Riordan said workers believed they could turn the corner if IFI was backed by the State, which owns 51% of the company. IFI also has plants in Arklow and Belfast which employ 450 people, but the Cork plant, which manufactures ammonia for fertiliser, is seen to be most at risk in a rationalisation plan. Apart from manufacturing 1.5 million tons of fertiliser each year, IFI also makes 20,000 tons of CO2 for the soft drinks industry.

Mr Martin said he was very concerned about the situation. “I’ve undertaken to raise the issue with the Tánaiste. We’re very concerned because IFI is a major employer. Over the coming days we will have to see what options are available,” Mr Martin said.

Port of Cork deputy chief executive Sean Geary said the IFI plant at Cobh was worth up to 500,000 a year to his company.

Cork County Council yesterday agreed to ask both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to intervene. Cobh-based Cllr John Mulvihill said the closure would present the region with another major blow. “We’ve already lost Youghal carpets and Irish Ispat. If IFI shuts we might as well close the bridge at Belvelly,” Cllr Mulvihill said.

Cllr Simon Coveney (FG) said the area couldn’t survive another blow and that many of IFI’s employees were middle aged and would find it difficult to get another job. Cork Co Major Cllr Paula Desmond said “she was deeply concerned” about the situation and would lobby the government to ensure the plant stayed open.

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