What now for Ardara?
With the devastating announcement last Wednesday that at least 124 jobs are to go at Gallagher's Bakery, Ardara, Donegal Democrat/People's Press reporter SUE DOHERTY hit the streets to ask local people, and their public representatives, for their reactions.
Gallagher's Bakery - What the politicians are saying
‘An offer on the table for fresh business' - Domhnaill
According to Senator Brian Domhnaill, three companies have expressed interest in purchasing the fresh goods business at Gallagher's Bakery, with one of them having already put an offer on the table.
He said: "There have been three expressions of interest in buying the fresh products business at Gallagher's. I discussed it with one of the companies in great detail, and it would be my desirable conclusion that that bakery would actually take over the fresh element of it. Those discussions are at a very early stage at the minute but there is an offer on the table and I would hope that that would be considered.
The senator, who is a member of the board of dras na Gaeltachta, slammed IAWS/Aryzta for- its "very cold and strategic decision to close the bakery in Ardara, just as they are closing another bakery on the continent."
He added: "I am dismayed and outraged by this decision.My focus is now on saving as many jobs as possible and negotiating a fair redundancy package for those who are being let go.We at dars na Gaeltachta have been involved in high level negotiations with the company and potential buyers in a bid to secure the best possible outcome from an extremely difficult situation.
"Senior executives at dars na Gaeltachta met with the company in Athlone on Thursday to discuss redundancy terms. They were resolute in their intention to relocate the French Mill part of the operation to Grange Castle in Dublin."
"However they have said that they are open to selling the fresh food part of the business to another firm - a move which would save approximately 40 jobs.As a result of this, dars is currently engaging with a number of potential buyers to salvage this part of the operation."
"I am committed to doing everything within my powerto salvage what we can from this bad situation," Senator 'Domhnaill concluded.
‘We'll never recover from it' - Slowey
Cllr. Terence Slowey, who lives in Ardara, told the Donegal Democrat/People's Press that the people of the town "will never recover" from the loss of at least 124 jobs at Gallagher's Bakery.
"We'll never recover from it. I don't see how we can. And there is no other industry here."
He said that Frank Gallagher "a self-made man who always remembered any wee favour anyone did for him and always looked after them" had built the hugely successful business up from "a shed out the back of his house in Ard Connell."
Frank and his son Declan, he added, "were very shrewd to spot the potential in the frozen baked products sector, and they build up a very substantial share in both the Irish and the UK markets."
It was, the councillor reminiscences, a huge success story that everyone in Donegal was proud of.
However, Cllr. Slowey first began to worry about the future of the business more than five years ago, when a senior IAWS executive let slip that "Gallagher's would fit very nicely into our operations".
Cllr. Slowey said he told the executive straightaway that he wouldn't like to see IAWS take any stake in Gallagher's business. "I told him that once IAWS got Gallagher's customer base, the Donegal bakery would be in jeopardy, as it was so much further from IAWS's major markets than the Dublin bakery."
He commented: "IAWS have a short memory. When they were in trouble in the 1980s, it was the highly profitable fishmeal business in Killybegs that helped pull them through."
Tanaiste ‘in discussions'
The Tnaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan TD, has expressed her deep disappointment at the news of the decision by Aryzta to cease production of frozen goods at Gallagher's Bakery Ardara.
The Tnaiste said she was "focused on retaining as many jobs as possible" and was confident that the fresh production business, which employs 40 people, remains viable. She has had discussions with top company management both in Ireland and Switzerland and says she has been assured that every effort possible is being made to protect the jobs associated with fresh production. The Tnaiste has also been in discussion with the Acting CEO of dars na Gaeltachta as well as the CEO of Enterprise Ireland.
Minister Coughlan also said she will beensuring that all relevant state agencies are involved in assisting those workers who are in the unfortunate position of losing their jobs.
‘A matter of taking out the opposition' - Pringle
Cllr Thomas Pringle lambasted the company for the way it broke the news to its employees. "I think the company behaved very badly when workers had to hear the number of jobs that are going and the number of jobs that might be saved from journalists. At the very least, there should have been proper consultation."
While he accepted that market pressures and overheads were factors in the decision, he also indicated that the closure was part of a long-term strategy. "The French Mill brand was in direct competition with Cuisine de France, which is also owned by IAWS/Aryzta. Was buying Gallagher's in the first place just a case of taking out the opposition?"
‘Government must intervene' - Doherty
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty has called on the Government to intervene in the crisis, saying "124 job losses in a small community like Ardara are akin to thousands of job losses in Dublin. The knock-on affect to the area will be devastating and it is not receiving the attention needed from government."
He said ministers "need to spend less time working on saving their own jobs and more time trying to save the 124 jobs in Ardara".
He added: "Donegal has been devastated by job losses. Thousands of our young people will emigrate this year. This government and any incoming government must commit to implementing a jobs plan for Donegal as a priority."
‘An economic tragedy' - McGinley
Dinny McGinley, TD, called said the news is "nothing short of an economic tragedy for the area, especially when the region is already an unemployment black spot". He was adamant that "every effort should be made to save as many of the jobs as possible where certain lines of production could be rescued" and urged "all the agencies, including Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Department of the Gaeltacht to work together to address this crisis."
‘No commitment to communities' - Harkin
Independent MEP Marian Harkin said the decision by IAWS/Aryzta to cease frozen production at Ardara showed the company had "lost touch with its roots".
She commented: "Once again Donegal is being hit with a devastating loss of jobs but this time sadly it comes as a result of the decisions of people, and an organisation, which emerged from the proud ethos of the Irish agricultural co-operative movement.
"This Irish controlled Swiss based multi-national has a board of directors which not so long ago were immersed in business owned by Irish farmers. Having abandoned that connection they now owe their full loyalty to ‘the market' without any corporate social responsibility or commitment to communities in which they operate."
Ms Harkin noted that the company also owns Origin Enterprises, which is chaired by Enterprise Ireland Chairman Hugh Cooney. She said: "I would respectfully ask him to intervene to have this decision, which is hugely damaging to the entire County of Donegal, reviewed."
She also called on the incoming government to "provide resources to County Donegal Enterprise Board and Donegal Local Development Company as a matter of urgency".
‘Will lead to fresh wave of emigration' - irg
The socialist republican party irg has condemned the owners and management at Gallaghers Bakery in Ardara following the announcement of the loss of 124 jobs with the remaining 65 jobs also at risk. Party spokesperson for Tr Chonaill Michel Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig said the job losses would devestate the economy locally and lead to a fresh wave of emigration from the county.
MacGiolla Easbuig said: "These job cuts have been imposed, not to protect the company, but to maximise and increase the profits for the shareholders. It is just the latest in a long line of examples of the greed and callousness with which multi-national companies operate. They amass vast profits created by the labour of their employees, who are then cast aside as expendable commodities once the multi-national decides they can secure a few extra euro's profit for themselves somewhere else."
He added: "The job losses are a devestating blow to Ardara and the entire south west Donegal region. This is a region that is already reeling as a result of mass unemployment and forced emigration, something we were led to believe was a thing of the past. Workers and their families are now being thrown on the scrapheap with no opportunities for employment in the region. The end result will be ever lengthening dole queues and a fresh wave of emigration from the county."