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1 November 2007 Edition

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Sinn Féin campaigns for proactive, new measures on job creation

Seagate closure another blow to North West

BY CAOILFHIONN NI DHONNABHÁIN

It emerged early this week that the Seagate plant in Limavady, County Derry is to close with the loss of more than 900 jobs.   The news comes as the draft programme for Government of the Northern Executive puts a firm focus on job creation.
The Seagate plant, which manufactured components for computer hard disk drives was established at Limavady in 1997.  Seagate’s operation at Limavady is now to be moved to the middle east.  The plant’s manager William O’Kane  has been quoted in the media as saying:
 “It was simply no longer viable to continue to challenge an equivalent operation in the Far East, where they have a significant cost advantage relative to Limavady.”
Seagate received £34 million of tax payers money since 1997 – £4.4million of which was paid since last January. Questions remain regarding the aid granted in the last year, including the failure of those allocating this money to make an assessment of what was coming down the line, and how much, if any, of the money can be retrieved and channelled into other job creation projects.
Sinn Féin East Derry MLA, Francie Brolly expressed deep disappointment at the loss of Seagate jobs, called for the provision of retraining for workers effected and demanded action from Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to ensure a replacement for Seagate in Limavady is found. Brolly along with other political party representative met with Seagate Management to press for acceptable remuneration packages. The six weeks pay per year of service package offered by Seagate has been welcomed.
Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty described the job losses as another blow to the North West region saying “Government failure to pro-actively plan for the North West’s economic future and its decade long refusal to take pre-emptive action to lessen the impact of expected job losses in the manufacturing industry has left the region barren of economic prospects.”
On Tuesday Assembly Enterprise Committee Vice Chair Paul Maskey MLA requested a meeting between the DETI Minister Nigel Dodds, Invest NI and the assembly Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee to request answers over the devastating job losses in County Derry while Arthur Morgan TD raised the issue in the Dáil on Wednesday.
A joint communiqué issued following the second meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in Institutional Format held in Dundalk on Tuesday expressed its regret at the decision of Seagate to close its plant at Limavady saying that it recognised that because Seagate’s workforce at Limavady comes from a wide area on a cross-border basis, the plant’s closure decision will have serious implications for both the Northern Executive and the Irish Government. Ministers agreed to co-operate closely in the coming weeks in their efforts to address the situation. 
The Draft Programme for Government sets out plans to create 6,500 new jobs in the Six Counties by 2011 and for 600 companies to become exporters for the first time in the same period.
On Wednesday it was announced that an indigenous enterprise Norbrook pharmaceuticals in Newry is to expand its operation by the creation of up to 293 new jobs including high skill research posts points.
Sinn Féin has long argued for a greater focus on developing in indigenous enterprise  – the expansion at Norbrook is a timely reminder of the job creation potential of indigenous enterprises.
Speaking from Dundalk on Tuesday Six County Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA said that the closure of the Seagate plant highlighted the need for a sustained focus on job creation North and South.
“Job creation has to be a priority North and South. This was a central focus of the recent Budget for the Northern Executive. The loss of a major employer, such as Seagate, has a huge effect on people who lose their jobs, their families and others that provide goods or services to the plant and are therefore dependent on it for their livelihoods.
McGuinness said the closure which affected people on both sides of the border “further demonstrates why enterprise development agencies including the IDA and Invest NI need to work together”.
The Deputy First Minister concluded by saying “Infrastructure deficits that hamper the ability of the North West to attract jobs need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Workers have to be upskilled to ensure they can access alternative employment and so that Ireland as a whole can regain its competitiveness. Only through such a proactive approach can we remain attractive to investors and be in a position to facilitate the creation and expansion of indigenous enterprises.”

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