Local representatives have called on the Government and the IDA to step up and encourage more businesses to locate in the county following the loss of 160 jobs announced by MBNA last week.
Cathaoirleach of Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal District, Cllr Sean McGowan said the planned closure of the bank office in Carrick-on-Shannon in November was “devastating news for the workers and their families and our hearts go out to them at this difficult time.
“In addition to the personal loss to the employees and their families it’s a real hammer blow to the town of Carrick-on Shannon, to Leitrim and to neighbouring counties, the loss of 160 jobs in Carrick would equate to almost 1,000 in Dublin and will lead to an impact on the local economy. By comparison from the turn of the millennium when almost 1,000 were employed at the centre how sad it is to see how matters have unfolded with its pending closure,” he said.
Cllr McGowan said there was now a three month window of opportunity before the closure becomes a reality for a buyer to be found for the UK loan book and he stressed the need to act quickly.
Cllr Enda Stenson said the news was devastating and noted it was imperative that Minister Bruton, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland come to the aid of the region.
The Independent councillor was critical of the lack of effort to secure the jobs over the past few years, especially when, he said, it was clear they were under threat.
“The Minister and these agencies need to work now to get replacement jobs into the Carrick-on-Shannon facility. We in Leitrim cannot sustain job losses like this and priority must be given to ensure more jobs are brought to this area,” noted Cllr Stenson.
His call was echoed by Fine Gael councillor and Carrick-on-Shannon businesswoman, Finola Armstrong-McGuire who said “It is difficult for these 160 people who have lost their jobs.
“For many it has been their first and only employment. The only reason for the withdrawal of the company has been said to be the fall in credit card business due to the economical changes in recent years.
“Our region has great potential. We have worked hard to reverse the “downturn” in small steady steps. We have experienced growth in recent times. Expansion of “Prior Medical Devices”, “Vistamed”, The Hive, The Hub and the arrival of Avant Card have brought positive opinion to the area,” she said ,calling on the Government and the IDA to prioritise the town for job creation.
“We need a financial services company to come and locate in Carrick-on-Shannon. We have a very modern business centre here, certainly among the most modern in Europe. We have staff already trained and willing to take up positions waiting in the wings to commence working in an alternative financial services company. Employment is the life blood of every area. Carrick-on-Shannon in 2014 is one of the best small towns in which to do business.”
Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council, Paddy O’Rourke joined his colleagues in calling for urgent action to find a buyer for MBNA’s UK Loan Book business here in Ireland.
Cllr O’Rourke said he had expressed concern earlier this year as to why there wasn’t more by way of IDA visits to the county over the last few years.
“This would have given an opportunity to show investors what was available in the county,” he pointed out.
The Cathaoirleach observed that the 160 jobs lost in the county last week failed to make the front pages of any national newspaper suggesting that the loss in Leitrim is not viewed with the same significance it would receive in any other region.
“This ignores the huge contribution these jobs along with the ancillary jobs associated with them, have made over the years to our local economy,” he said.
Independent councillor, Des Guckian accused successive governments of allowing the slide of MBNA to happen and said “there is a clear pattern emerging. Industries and towns, in the West of Ireland, are being allowed to close. The East of Ireland is allowed to grow unchecked.
“I have long been an advocate of the creation of a Special Western Development Region. It would be similar to The Highlands and Islands Region of Scotland, with special grants and incentives, supports for fast broadband and integrated transport, social supports and care for the young, the elderly and the disabled.
“The Rooskey meat plant must be got going again. The recent Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann, in Sligo, shows how our scenery, our way of life and our culture can be marketed. We must fight back and say that no party gets any more votes without committing to a Special Western Development Region, backed by adequate funding.”
Boyle Municipal District Councillor, Eugene Murphy has cautioned against the establishment of any taskforce in the wake of the closure claiming this “would only be used as an excuse to cover up the bad news.”
Expressing deep sadness for the many people affected by the decision, Cllr Murphy said the blow was devastating and hurtful to those directly affected.
Cllr Murphy called on the Minister for Jobs to act decisively.
“I know he has been involved for some time in relation to this operation, he now needs to look at replacement jobs without delay,” he told the Leitrim Observer this week.