Plea to enterprise chiefs as call centre closes

Government enterprise chiefs were tonight urged to fight for a new investor at a business site which is to close its doors for a second time.

Government enterprise chiefs were tonight urged to fight for a new investor at a business site which is to close its doors for a second time.

Keith Prowse is to lay off 100 staff and shut its call centre in Lisfannon, Buncrana, Co Donegal - once home to the massive textile firm Fruit of the Loom.

Padraic MacLochlainn, Sinn Féin Mayor of Buncrana, called for enterprise and investment chiefs to prioritise a new development on the site.

"While this is a devastating blow to the workers and to Buncrana and Inishowen, we have to move immediately to market the top class, experienced staff and world class and state-of-the-art facilities at Lisfannon," he said.

Mr MacLochlainn said the company's chief executive Paul Burns had said he is already trying to attract other call centre firms to take up the purpose-built space in Buncrana.

"We need to all work together to ensure that our community does not lose hope in the potential to market Buncrana and Inishowen for investment. That will be our focus in the time ahead," Mr MacLochlainn said.

The parent company was understood to have suffered cashflow problems and was unable to compete effectively with modern events and ticket sales.

A meeting has been arranged for next Thursday involving IDA Ireland, employment agencies, the county council, Fas and cross party politicians. Senior management from Keith Prowse will also attend.

Mr MacLochlainn said he feared the site and state-of-the-art communications equipment could be sold off by an administrator rather than securing a new tenant for a site which is ready to go.

Donegal suffers from one of the highest regional jobless rates with about 30% unemployment.

A spokesman for Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said efforts were ongoing to find a new tenant or buyer for the site.

"The Minister has contacted the Donegal regional office of the Government's enterprise agency, IDA Ireland, and asked them to explore the possibility of selling or leasing the building," he said.

"He has also asked FÁS to take immediate steps to arrange the necessary employment assistance interventions for workers in the company.

"We understand that the company will close on Sunday following the recent loss of contracts and cashflow difficulties."

The closure on Sunday of the ticket sales centre will see 50 part-time and 50 full-time staff laid off. It handled ticket sales for entertainment events.

Local politicians have set up a series of meetings with IDA regional officials in an effort to drive the employment agenda in the county.

Joe McHugh, Fine Gael deputy for Donegal North East, said: "It is absolutely galling that the Government is pouring 25 billion euro of taxpayers' money into dead banks and have no interest in spending money on protecting jobs.

"When will they pour money into Donegal?"

Fianna Fáil Senator Cecilia Keaveney added: "I do not underestimate the impact that this news will have on the workforce that have been laid off and their families."

The Senator said she was awaiting a briefing from the IDA on employment and enterprise challenges facing Donegal.

"Donegal has potential. It has people who can make things happen," she said.

"We need the agencies to listen, speak with us and drive that potential and entrepreneurship that is latent. Government too must meet the identified shortcomings with a coherent and planned response.

"I have asked Minister O Keeffe to consider having a 'mini Farmleigh' event for Donegal where we can have a constructive evaluation of our strengths, our weaknesses and a positive way forward."

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