Noonan criticised as 400 jobs fail to materialise

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been criticised by former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea after 400 jobs he said were “at the final stages of negotiation” failed to materialise.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been criticised by former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea after 400 jobs he said were “at the final stages of negotiation” failed to materialise.

The region’s most senior politician made the announcement at the Limerick Chamber’s annual awards dinner.

The Limerick Leader later revealed that the positions were earmarked for Dell’s former factory in Raheen, which would have been converted into a call centre to serve the government’s new state company Irish Water.

Mr Noonan’s speech inspired optimism among business leaders, and he later told reporters: “I can tell you it is true, and it will be a big boost for Limerick”.

But this week, it was confirmed that Fexco, which had tendered for the project, had not passed the first stage of the tendering process, and is out of the running.

Fexco had planned to bring the jobs to Raheen. Since his initial comments, Mr Noonan has remained silent on the matter.

When contacted by the Limerick Leader, he said: “Irish Water have put out a statement saying no decision has been made yet. This is what they are saying, and I am not making any further comment beyond this. I understand it is a sensitive time, and a comment would not serve anybody’s interest.”

However, he admitted is will be “very disappointing” if Limerick indeed did miss out on these jobs.

It is the second time in a year Limerick has potentially lost out on jobs. The city was in the running to bring 1,000 jobs through Paypal call centre, but the internet payment company instead chose to locate in Dundalk.

Fianna Fail TD Willie O’Dea said he did not think it was right to “raise people’s expectations” around the jobs. I think hopes were certainly raised. The area has been devastated by unemployment, so something like the water jobs would be like a gift from heaven. It is like they were promised, and then snatched away,” he said.

Sinn Fein city councillor Maurice Quinlivan said while he does not agree with the premise of Irish Water, the jobs would have been a real boost to Limerick.

“Last year, we highlighted that we have 18 unemployment blackspots. We have two government ministers sitting at the Cabinet table.

“We need them to be fighting Limerick’s corner, and it does not appear this has happened.

“What we have at the moment is a desperation: people have given up, and young people are only speaking about emigration or worse.”

He said Mr Noonan’s early disclosure of the jobs is “the sort of politics which has turned people cynical”.

“I am sure if the Minister is announcing 400 jobs, he would have the heads up, so I don’t know why he is saying stuff when it is not confirmed,” he said.

Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan admitted she was “taken aback” to hear Limerick had missed out on the jobs.

But she did not comment on Mr Noonan’s disclosure.

However, a source close to the process said it is unlikely Mr Noonan’s remarks would have put Limerick at a disadvantage. “There is no issue with that - a tender process had to be gone through, and the company which had an interest in Limerick were not shortlisted to go through,” the source stated.