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Jobless task force for West Belfast

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

A task force is to be established to tackle deprivation in West Belfast, an area that has the highest male unemployment in Northern Ireland.

The announcement was made Monday by the North’s Enterprise Minister, Sir Reg Empey, and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

"If the peace process is to mean anything, it must mean empowering the most disadvantaged and marginalized sections of our society and it must lead to a better quality and standard of life," Adams said. "The jobs task force can make that happen sooner and in a more structured and permanent fashion."

In Belfast some time ago, a task force was set up to help obtain work for those who lost their jobs at the Harland and Wolf shipyard. However, a local Sinn Féin councilor was critical of the move, saying a similar task force had not been set up to help the long-term unemployed.

Subsequently, however, the North’s enterprise minister, Reg Empey, in an interview with the Irish Echo in New York, repudiated that criticism, saying long-term unemployment in Northern Ireland had dropped "very significantly."

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Another O’Reilly

Just because Tony O’Reilly has stepped down from his top positions at Heinz doesn’t mean there’s no longer an O’Reilly casting a giant shadow across America’s corporate landscape. There’s Dublin-born Dave O’Reilly, 53, chairman and chief executive of the Chevron Corporation, which last week acquired Texaco Inc. in a $34.2 billion deal.

Dave O’Reilly is a chemical engineering graduate of University College, in Dublin. He joined Chevron in 1968 and has been there since.

Chevron is headquartered in San Francisco, while Texaco is based in White Plaints. There has been concern about what consequences, if any, the acquisition of Texaco could have for jobs in Westchester County. The new company will be called the ChevronTexaco Corporation and it will be world’s fourth largest producer of oil and gas.

Keough’s still got the fizz

Usually, when people reach their early 70s, they think of leaving their employers behind for a less demanding life. Not Donald Keough, the 73-year-old former president of Coca-Cola. This week, he made an official return to Coke as an adviser to chairman Douglas Daft and the board.

Keough’s return formalizes an arrangement that had been in effect since Daft assumed leadership last December. Keough had been president and chief operating officer of Coke from 1981-93. He worked closely with the then chairman, Robert Goizueta. After retiring, Keough continued as an adviser to Goizueta, but Keough’s formal relationship with the company ended with Goizeuta’s death in 1997.

Keough, prominent in Irish-American circles, is chairman of Allen and Co., a New York investment firm headed by Herbert Allen, who is also a Coke director.

What’s floating now

At the Irish Business Organization’s annual dinner dance in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan last Friday night, the recipient of the IBO Businessperson of the Year Award was Michael Foley, group chief executive of Aer Lingus. After Fr. ‘ngus Finucane of Concern prayed for the IBO during grace before the meal, Foley joked that he thought Fr. Finucane was praying for the IPO, referring to Aer Lingus’s expected initial public offering of shares next year.

Although much attention has been focused on the state airline’s anticipated flotation, the semi-state’s utility company, the Electricity Supply Board, may also be heading for privatization. ESB management wants the entire company floated on the stock market. The minister for public enterprise, Mary O’Rourke, has confirmed that she is in favor of at least a part-privatization and sources close to the minister said she was not ruling out a full privatization.

The ESB, which has 8,000 employees, made pre-tax profits of £266 million last year.

Meanwhile, the ESB has leased five temporary electricity generators from General Electric at a cost of £10 million to boost winter supplies.

Now it’s Bernie’s turn

Top Aer Lingus honchos are certainly finding New York a friendly place these days. Group Chief Executive Michael Foley was honored by the IBO last weekend, and the airline’s chairman, Bernie Cahill, will he honored on Nov. 2 during the Ireland-U.S. Council for Commerce & Industry’s 38th annual dinner. The event, which will begin with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., will take place in the Metropolitan Club, One East 60th St., at Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan.

Unruly teachers

It seems that in Ireland, industrial relations are taking a turn for the worse. Last week, it was staff at Aer Lingus who staged a strike. This week comes news that high school teachers will stage a strike for up to four days next month. The action would likely result in the closure of more than 600 schools.

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