Jobs blow

A large number of the workers who are to lose their jobs with a company in Athlone are from the South Roscommon area.    The news yesterday (Tuesday) of the loss of 165 medical-sector jobs in Athlone has evoked dismay and some anger in the South Roscommon region.   Yesterday afternoon Conor Medsystems handed letters of notice to 165 workers at its Dublin Road plant. The announcement was made following difficulties endured by Conor Medsystems with one of its medical products on the American market.   Expressing disappointment with the job losses, Fine Gael Deputy Denis Naughten noted that the development has implications for the midlands as the centre of Ireland’s medical device industry.   ‘The decision by Conor Medsystems to close its operation in Athlone from 22nd June will not only have a huge impact on the employees and their families but also on the objective of promoting the Midlands as a hub for the medical device industry,’ said Deputy Naughten who accredited the job losses to the government’s inflationary domestic policies.   ‘These job losses wouldn’t arise if the Conor Medsystem’s parent company – Johnson & Johnson – were to transfer new business to this plant,’ said the Fine Gael TD, who made the point that such companies are relocating to Eastern Europe because of ‘the cost of manufacturing in this country’.   Deputy Naughten’s statement was criticised by Fianna Fáil TD Michael Finneran. Rejecting ‘the down-talking of the area by some public representatives following this announcement.’    Deputy Finneran asserted that he had received assurances from An Taoiseach that the area will be given special priority by the government.    Mr. Finneran spoke with Bertie Ahern whilst the Fianna Fáil leader toured Roscommon on Tuesday. The government TD described the news as ‘a blow for south Roscommon.’   He added: ‘I received assurances from An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern when he visited the area today that special priority will be given to seeking a suitable replacement industry for the area. Every assistance will be given by FÁS to those who find themselves without work,’ said the Fianna Fáil TD.   Mr. Finneran defended the government’s record on employment in Roscommon and referred to the 40% reduction in unemployment in the county since 1997.    ‘We in Fianna Fáil are committed to taking the next steps in industry, and investing in research and development to ensure secure industry into the future.    ‘Every effort will be made to ensure that jobs of the same calibre are attracted to Athlone in the coming months and I am confident that we will be successful in this,’ he said. Local Councillor Anthony Geraghty described the news as ‘devastating’ and urged the IDA to ‘address’ the matter as quickly as possible.   ‘Losing one’s job can never come at a good time but losing it at the beginning of the summer when people have holidays booked is particularly devastating,’ said Cllr. Geraghty.