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End of an era as Irish Pride closes


60 staff made redundant

Ciara Galvin

THE staff at Ballinrobe’s Irish Pride bakery will hang up their white coats, turn off computers and clock out for the final time on Thursday, as the plant officially closes.
It will be the end of an era for the community of Ballinrobe, as the plant has been in operation in the town since the early 1950s.
Back then, the bakery was Western Pride, the brainchild of the O’Connor family. Brothers Tom and Andy came to the town and set up the bakery in a small house on Abbey Street in 1954. By 1972, the bakery covered an area of 27,000 square foot, according to 1972 publication of The Bridge Magazine. The magazine detailed that in 1972 there were 68 people employed on the Abbey Street premises and a total of 95 between all their bakeries.
This Thursday and Friday, 60 staff members will be made redundant, and the only Irish Pride operation left in the country will be its plant in Taghmon, Co Wexford.

Through the years
After its humble beginnings, Western Pride was eventually sold and rebranded as leading bread manufacturer Irish Pride in 1990.
In 2005, following an investment of €10 million, a new state-of-the-art soft-rolls plant opened at Taghmon.
In later years, the company had approximately 23 depots across Ireland, and 170 van sales distributors, who made over 2,000 deliveries each day.
In 2009, Irish Pride registered at number 13 in the top 100 grocery brands list in Ireland.
The company was sold for an undisclosed sum last year by investment group One51 to WHW Bakeries, a business controlled by Garret and William Lloyd.
On June 12 last, staff were handed letters informing them that the company had gone into receivership, and that the development had come against ‘the background of difficult trading over time’ as well as market and cost ‘pressures’.
The letter concluded by saying directors were ‘confident’ about the future trading position of the company.
Two weeks later, Gores Group, which owns British bread company Hovis, took over the debt of Irish Pride and replaced the receivers.
August 7 was a day of mixed emotion for staff, as that morning they were told that Longford bakery Pat the Baker had bought Irish Pride.
Follow-up news, however, was not good, and the 60 staff at the plant were told that Pat the Baker would only be taking on the Wexford operation. A 30 day consultation process proceeded, leading up to the Ballinrobe plant closure this week.

Political calls for action
Local councillors and TDs were vocal in the aftermath of the closure announcement, with Fianna Fáil members TDs Dara Calleary, Éamon Ó Cuív and Cllr Damien Ryan calling for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to meet with workers. Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony said he would be raising the issue with the Taoiseach and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton. Cllr Patsy O’Brien compared the loss of jobs to that of 1,000 jobs in a larger area.
In a letter to Independent TD Noel Grealish last week, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a Regional Action Plan for Jobs for the Western Region will be launched in the coming weeks.
Mr Kenny said that he understood that it must be a very difficult situation for those involved, and he had passed on the suggestion of a task force to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
Deputy Grealish said no stone should be left unturned in order to source replacement jobs for the Irish Pride staff.
It is understood that the majority of staff at the Ballinrobe plant will finish on Thursday and Friday, with a skeleton office staff remaining for a further three weeks.