By Harry Keaney
So much for all the euphoric talk about the Celtic Tiger. Just ask some workers in Westmeath, Longford, Donegal and Limerick.
Mullingar is bracing for the loss of 140 jobs because of the closure of Tarkett Ireland which produces flooring. The first 50 workers will be let go this month. All the rest of the staff will be redundant by the end of January. Production costs, declining sales in Russian and eastern European markets, distance from main markets, and high transportation costs for raw materials and finished goods were among the reasons for the decision to close. Tarkett’s parent company is located in Germany.
The future of 170 jobs in a Longford textile plant, Atlantic Mills, is looking increasingly doubtful. It is believed that a decision is imminent on whether to close the plant, which produces denim at its plant in Clondra.
In Donegal, there is growing discontent among the 2,500 workers at Fruit of the Loom who fear that up to 700 jobs may be at risk.
And in Limerick, as noted on page 23 of this issue, the Moulinex plant is to close its household appliance manufacturing operation, causing the loss of 500 jobs. Moulinex bought Krups in 1991. Most production jobs at the plant will be terminated within two months, with "lights out" by June next year, the company said.
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The Limerick plant has been a feature of the city for 34 years. At one point, it employed 1,400 people.
Meanwhile, graduate recruitment in Ireland is "a totally different ballgame" now than it was just a few years ago, according to the human resources manager of a leading software firm. "It’s the companies, not the graduates, who have to sell themselves now," according to Clare Buckley, human resource manager at Sun Microsystems.
Irish Village goes online
Irish Village, the direct mail catalog division of the Roberts Rinehart Publishing group, has officially gone online as a website retail enterprise, offering books, music, musical instruments and videos from and about Ireland. Irish Village will link with current Roberts Rinehart and Irish American Book Company websites to give consumers access to more than 1,000 products, 250 of which will be featured with extensive text and images. www.irishvillage.com represents the second stage of a three-part business plan aimed at addressing the nearly unrelenting demand for high quality Irish products in North America. The third stage will be the opening a prototype retail store in a major U.S. metropolitan area in 1999, with a goal of franchising stores after the year 2000.
Kevin FitzGerald, first vice president, investments, at PaineWebber and an Echo columnist, will host a financial workshop on asset allocation and diversification on Nov. 17 in the Huntington Hilton, Melville, N.Y. Refreshments will be served at 7 p.m. with the workshop starting at 7:30. There is no charge for the seminar. For information, call Donna at (516) 420-6418.
Bórd na Móna, the Irish peat board, has sold the marketing aspect of its "Shamrock" brand of peat products to Scotts, the leading U.S. lawn and garden care company. The amount Scotts paid for the marketing rights has not been disclosed.
Shamrock products are well known in gardening and horticultural circles, and has their principal market, at present, in Britain. Donal Clarke, head of corporate affairs at Bórd na Móna, said the company would continue to make the products and Scotts would market it. "We want to simplify our business and they are extremely good at marketing," he said. He added that £4 million was being invested in the factories which package the peat and manufacture compost, employing about 300 people. The chief executive of Scotts, Charles Berger, said the company intended to leverage Bord na Móna’s vast low-cost peat reserves across Europe.
Lucas ‘rospace, one of the world’s top 10 automotive suppliers and a leading global ‘rospace provider, is investing about $1 million in Northern Ireland to expand its electronic and software engineering capabilities. The new engineering center in Belfast will develop and maintain advanced software systems for civil and military aircraft controls.
Meanwhile, Fujitsu, Japan’s leading information technology company, has chosen Belfast-based Kainos Software Limited to create a new software application for its global markets. Fujitsu has invested a total of $30 million in Northern Ireland during the past five years. It recently established a new telecommunications software engineering center in Belfast.
Ireland-U.S. Council dinner
The Ireland-United States Council will hold its 36th annual dinner on Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in The Metropolitan Club, in New York. The council’s annual award for outstanding achievement will be presented to Donal Geaney, chairman and CEO of the Elan Corporation.