Loss of 124 jobs leaves Donegal town devastated

A SMALL Donegal town has suffered a devastating blow after a bakery last night blamed rising costs and a drop in sales for the loss of at least 124 jobs.

Gallagher’s Bakery in Ardara, Co Donegal, confirmed it had been forced to stop its frozen bread production line.

Management said intensive negotiations with prospective buyers were under way to save its fresh bread business, which could save a number of jobs among its 189-strong workforce.

Declan Gallagher, managing director, said the frozen business was not sustainable in the long term.

“Its position has been under review for some time and we have arrived at this decision which has been taken with great regret,” said Mr Gallagher.

“Increasingly difficult market conditions, increased commodity costs, declining sales and reduced product prices have put immense pressure on the business.

“This has been exacerbated by the weakness of sterling which has affected our ability to compete in the British market.”

Local politician Dinny McGinley said the news was a devastating body blow to employment in South West Donegal.

“The loss of 124 jobs is nothing short of an economic tragedy for the area, especially when the region is already an unemployment black spot,” said the Fine Gael deputy.

Staff were called in to a meeting this afternoon where they were told the devastating news.

Gallaghers, once a family- run business, was taken over four years ago by IAWS, which also owns Cuisine de France. It produced its own breads as well as the French Mill and Cuisine de France brands.

Management hope 40 jobs will be saved in the fresh bread business, with 26 workers redeployed with the frozen production line to its Cuisine de France factory in Dublin.

Mr Gallagher said sustained efforts had been made to save the business and address the decline in sales and product prices.

“We have made capital investment in the site, streamlined production operations, cut our costs and introduced new product lines but ultimately to no avail,” he continued.

“There is substantial over-capacity in the market and unfortunately the frozen business cannot be sustained in the long term.

“The decision to cease frozen production is no reflection on the workforce who have worked hard with us to try to resolve the commercial issues but is exclusively a recognition of the market realities at present.

“This is a huge blow for staff and their families.”

The company vowed to try and secure employment opportunities for staff with an Outplacement Support Programme to assist employees to find employment.

Fianna Fáil senator Brian O Domhnaill called on IAWS to reconsider its decision and claimed the company had not drawn down on a financial package offered by the development board, Údarás na Gaeltachta, last year.

“This funding remains available to them,” he said.

It is understood senior officials from Údarás na Gaeltachta will meet with management tomorrow.

“Údarás na Gaeltachta remain fully committed to supporting the company and I have asked our team to do everything possible to protect jobs.”

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