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9 August 2001 Edition

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The foreseeable disaster

The decision of Gateway Computers to close its European Headquarters in Clonshaugh, Dublin, resulting in at least 900 job losses, is a major blow to the company's workers, their families and the local economy. In the context of recent developments, however, the move is all the more significant.

In the past few months, news of jobs cuts at Xerox, Intel and most profoundly, Gateway, has signaled that all is not well with the much-hyped technology sector in the 26 Counties.

Talk of an E-Ireland, silicon island and internet hub for the world had become the mainstay of self-congratulatory government propaganda, but in recent times the backslapping has gone to ground.

Companies like Intel have started moving their major operations to Malaysia and other countries where low wages and low costs allow them to compete more effectively in a sluggish global economy. For Ireland, which has based much of its recent economic success on the technology industry, this exodus could have devastating effects.

Much of the blame must rest with the economic policies of the Dublin government. They have bent over backwards to attract multinational companies to our shores. But these companiesí manufacturing locations depend entirely on the expediencies of global economics. These companies have no sentimentality about transferring their operations to the other side of the world, if it is deemed to be in their interests. Mary Harney and Bertie Ahern have made no provision for the people left behind.

The Dublin government policy of concentrating mainly on wooing multinationals to the detriment of indigenous industry is a short sighted approach in the longer term.

Selling off state industries such as Eircom, with Aer Lingus and An Post next on the list, gives economic mercenaries the opportunity to exploit resources and services that, by right, belong to the people of this country. We are then being asked to pay them for the privilege of using those services. Industry in Ireland must be developed in the interests of the people who live here.

The IDA reckons that if a company stays ten years in Ireland, that is a success, but tell that to the former Fruit of the Loom workers in Donegal or the stunned populace of Clonshaugh. Itís just not a good enough economic strategy.

Its not as if we couldnít have foreseen such a disaster, given the fickleness of the global economy. The question is ñ what is the government going to do about it? The Gateway closure is a chilling reminder of the economic disasters of the 1980s. Then, the government had no plan B and factories across the state shut their doors and dole queues lengthened. It is becomingly increasingly obvious that the lessons have not been learned.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1