ALMOST nine months after Andersen Ireland, the jewellery-manufacturing factory in Rathkeale, closed its doors with the loss of 170 jobs, Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins has called on Limerick City and County Council to buy the empty premises.
“This is a key strategic site and building within the town of Rathkeale, which is now vacant and on the open market,” Deputy Collins said this week, urging the council to move on the purchase “at the earlist possible opportunity”.
Andersen Ireland, which manufactured high-end costume jewellery in Rathkeale from the 1970s, went into liquidation under its new owners, PL Holdings, last September and production ceased just before Christmas. The plant has since been put up for sale with estate agents DTZ. There is still ongoing interest in the premises, one of their agents said this Wednesday but no sale agreed has been reached.
“It is imperative that the Andersen site comes under the control of the council or indeed any state agency, in order to provide the opportunity to create replacement jobs,” Deputy Collins said.
“We have unfortunately seen the negative impact caused when the council failed to acto on the purchase of the former GVM mart site,” he added. (The GVM site in Rathkeale was intended to be developed into a shopping centre with apartments under the town’s local area plan but no anchor tenant was found and the site was subsequently sold to private individuals for a reported €1m and remains vacant.)
Union official, Ray Mitchell of Siptu, told the Limerick Leader this week they would welcome any positive development at the former Andersen plant which would lead to jobs with decent pay and conditions. When the liquidation was announced last September, the union and workers’ representatives pushed hard to find an alternative owner for the business as a going concern but the closure went ahead.
“We would support the idea that Limerick City and County Council would buy the Andersen premises,” Tom Kiely, secretary of the Rathkeale Community Council, said this week. “Above all, we would like to see it purchased by someone who would create jobs in the town and in the locality.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Collins called on Limerick City and County Council to demonstrate its commitment to development in the county “I strongly feel the council must prioritise towns like Rathkeale in addition to its plan for Limerick city centre and not allow the key county towns to fall behind. The purchase of this facility would send a strong message to county Limerick that the new council is not just city-centre focused,” he said.