Former Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan said ministers had known for at least a year the axe was likely to fall, and were aware of what was in yesterday’s announcement since September.
“The Government has known for at least three months the extent of what was going to happen. Now it is finally being announced the Government don’t seem to have any plan in place to deal with the fallout. The state’s job creating agencies should now all concentrate on the Limerick area for the next 18 months,” he said.
Defence Minister and Limerick East TD Willie O’Dea said a government “task force” set up to help the 1,900 workers losing their jobs would also help generate employment.
Mr O’Dea said he expected the task force to also offer mortgage help to families.
He said the cabinet was also considering the level of funding that should be given to an IDA bid to try and attract 750 new backroom Dell jobs to the region.
However, opposition parties expressed concern that no chairperson has yet been appointed to head the task force, whose role they described as “vague”.
Mr O’Dea admitted the “word was on the ground” for some time that once Dell’s Polish plant was up and running, work would be shifted there.
However, he defended a trip he and Tánaiste Mary Coughlan made to the firm’s Texas headquarters before Christmas in which he said boss Michael Dell told them “bluntly, but politely” that the company’s competitors had all out-sourced their production and Dell had no future unless it did likewise.
Labour frontbench member and Limerick East TD Jan O’Sullivan criticised the Government’s attitude.
“This is an economic catastrophe for Limerick and the mid-west region and a personal tragedy for those who are now to lose their jobs,” she said.
“Many of the Dell workers do not believe that all possible was done to save these jobs. The trip to Texas by Ministers O’Dea and Coughlan in particular appears to have been a question of too little, too late.”
Taoiseach Brian Cowen expressed his concern at the move and its wider impact on other firms in the region, but stressed some previous manufacturing pullouts by computer firms had not prevented the firms increasing their workforce in the long term.
“There is no gainsaying that this decision represents a major loss to the region. I am particularly conscious of what this means to the workers whose jobs will go between April and January next and to their families.
“The government task force being appointed by the Tánaiste will consist of representatives of central government and the relevant state agencies at senior level and will engage with the workers and all relevant local interests to give every support and assistance to those who are losing their jobs and to promote economic activity and development in the region,” said Mr Cowen.