Harney urged to save tannery

TÁNAISTE Mary Harney has been urged to intervene immediately in the impending closure of the country’s only working tannery with the loss of 60 jobs.

Michell Ireland, an Australian-owned company based in Portlaw, Co Waterford, processes up to a quarter of the country's cattle hides. Continuing losses, which have worsened in recent times because of the strong euro and rising costs, have been blamed for the planned closure.

The cost of meeting Environmental Protection Agency requirements was also stated to be a major impact on its competitiveness.

Martin Coughlan, Munster vice-president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, said the tannery premises were only 10 years old with state-of-the-art facilities. Its loss would be a severe blow to the community.

The Irish beef industry produced about 1.8 million cattle hides annually. It would be a particular loss to the agriculture industry if hides had to be exported for further processing rather than adding value to them in Munster, he said.

He was confident the company was profitable in its own right and was the unfortunate victim of rationalisation by its parent in Australia. He said the Tánaiste must speak with the Australian owners immediately to see if a resolution could be found.

If this was not possible, then a suitable new owner, committed to continuing the tannery operation, should be sought before the proposed December 5 closing date.

Waterford Labour TD Brian O'Shea said he was shocked at the closure announcement.

"Every effort must be made to sell Michell as a going concern. This is the last wet blue tannery in the country. It is based on an indigenous raw material bovine hides. The closure of Michell will affect primary producers and the meat-processing sector, including Dawn Meats," he said.

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