The community of Kilconnell near Ballinasloe was dealt a huge blow when the board of Arrabawn Dairies voted to cease operations at its east Galway liquid milk plant from next summer, and to transfer its liquid milk sales to Aurivo Co-Op.
It is believed the move will see up to half of its current 110 employees moving with the business while Arrabawn has said redeployment opportunities will be made available to others.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described the move as a “catastrophic blow” to Kilconnell and communities across east Galway, adding that the decision was particularly disturbing given the substantial investment in the plant in recent years.
Deputy Fitzmaurice said that Arrabawn officials informed him that they were open to exploring alternative opportunities for the site and that the focus of public representatives should now be on replacing the jobs that will be lost over the next nine months.
“Efforts need to be redoubled by Government and all agencies to realise the full potential of every single asset, both State-owned and private, in the region. There is no magic wand when it comes to job creation in rural Ireland but with hard work and sincere commitment from Government, there are opportunities which can and must be seized,” he said.
“The agri-business sector is a tough one, but it is the backbone of rural communities. By supporting the innovation and resilience of farmers, businesses and communities, government can not just replace the jobs that will be lost – but create more”.
Deputy Fitzmaurice vowed to work with other elected representatives to support the people of Kilconnell.
“What has been decided is done, and when the dust settles from this shock announcement everybody’s focus needs to be on solutions,” he said.
Fellow Independent TD Denis Naughten said the closure was a “huge blow” to both employees and liquid milk suppliers in the area.
“Over recent years there has been significant investment in the plant which handles the liquid milk operations for Arrabawn Dairies who supply own brand milk to many retailers throughout the country and the loss of this competitor will also have a longer-term impact on consumer milk prices,” he said.
Deputy Naughten said it was now imperative to bring replacement jobs to the area.
“It is imperative not only that all possible steps are taken to bring replacement jobs to Kilconnell, but we also need to see the Tánaiste and IDA bring new investment to the underdeveloped IDA park at Creagh in Ballinasloe,” he said.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when we have companies in Athlone and Galway talking of the need for additional capacity while we have over 50 acres of State land lying idle just a short journey over the road in Ballinasloe”.
Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan said the future of Arrabawn staff must now be secured.
“What plans do Arrabawn have for the employees? They must be transparent and clear on this,” she said.
“I will work with our employment agencies to ensure plans are put in place for skilled workers here and to meet employee representative groups.
“I will also work to see if any other options are feasible for this plant which had seen expansion in 2018,” Senator Dolan concluded.