Members of Castlebar Town Council became involved in a heated row last week over An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s efforts to bring jobs to his home town.
Last November, the council passed a motion calling on Enda Kenny to meet with a council delegation to discuss the jobs situation in the town.
At last Thursday night’s meeting, Cllr Harry Barrett (Labour) said that it was ‘unacceptable’ that the council did not receive a reply until 5.40pm that evening – less than an hour before the council sat at 6.30pm.
“I would like Fine Gael to expedite this meeting,” said Cllr Barrett. “There are [job] announcements for Dublin and for Cork, but none for here. We have the land and the people. If the private sector cannot bring jobs here, then the state sector must.
“Castlebar won’t improve until production comes back. If it is our final legacy as a town council, then it would be a fine legacy,” added Cllr Barrett.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne (Independent) said the late reply from Enda Kenny demonstrated the priority level that he attachedto the issue of jobs in the town. “People are coming home for Christmas from abroad, and when they leave in January, some of them are bringing the rest of their family” he said.
Cllr Thérèse Ruane (Sinn Féin) said that the jobs issue in Castlebar is an ‘urgent’ one. She spoke of how the IDA Park on the Breaffy Road is ‘fully serviced and idle’, pointing out that the park is in Sinn Fein’s recent national jobs document.
Cllr Frank Durcan (Independent) said that Castlebar is suffering with regard to unemployment. “We’ve lost factories, a large [car] garage and the whole construction industry. Nursing graduates are being offered peanuts, more or less being told to get out of the country after the state spending 20 years educating them,” he said.
He added that employment is ‘the most important issue in this county’ and alleged that every councillor and council official in the county is a hypocrite, as he, Cllr Durcan, had offered to create 150 jobs and no offer of assistance came his way. He accused Enda Kenny of only getting ‘jobs for the boys’.
Cllr Ger Deere (Fine Gael), a parliamentary secretary to Enda Kenny, outlined how he and two other Fine Gael councillors, Cllr Brendan Henaghan and Cllr Eugene McCormack, had met with IDA officials earlier this year. He said that while they had received criticism for not inviting other members of the council, he would make ‘no apology’ for trying to bring jobs to Castlebar.
“The Taoiseach is working very hard behind the scenes to bring jobs to Castlebar. He is meeting a delegation from this council too,” said Cllr Deere.
Cllr Brendan Henaghan, who is also Mayor of Castlebar, said there were plans for Enda Kenny to meet with Castlebar Chamber of Commerce as well as current and former industrialists.
Cllr McCormack said that Castlebar is ‘up against it’ even to get industrialists to visit Castlebar to examine it as a potential site. “A lot of people have this idea that Enda Kenny can click his fingers and get an enormous industry into Castlebar. It’s his number one priority,” he said. He added that the €12.5 million announcement for the new swimming pool and outdoor pursuits academy happened ‘because we’ve a Taoiseach here’.
“That came from Michael Ring’s office,” Cllr Frank Durcan replied.
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