Deputy Peter Burke, Fine Gael TD for Longford Westmeath, this week ramped up his campaign to find a suitable manufacturing business to acquire the Imperial Tobacco site on the Dublin Road. Deputy Burke, who has been in talks with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and various other stakeholders over the past number of months, called on the Minister for Jobs and the main State agencies to acquire the site, which he says would be perfect for a new business or an enterprise ready to expand. Speaking in the Dáil and addressing the Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor on Thursday, Burke stated:
“Operational since 1967, Imperial Tobacco employed generations of families from Mullingar and its surrounds. 87 job losses were announced there this summer with devastating effects. I have been working with a number of employees in relation to social welfare payments and job opportunities. All of the jobs were well paid, with many being highly paid. What we need is a replacement industry, and with companies still eager to do business in Ireland, this site can provide a fantastic base.
“I demand that as a government, we take strong action to ensure that this site is utilised. The IDA and Enterprise Ireland need to market this plant aggressively. There were new plans unveiled in relation to a new IDA plant in Westmeath recently-this site is over 8.5 hectares and the plant is 10,000 square metres. It is an ideal location, with close proximity to Dublin and the airport. I have been working hard to secure replacement employment and have met with a number of potential businesses, but I need the full support of key government agencies and government”.
In the special Topical Issues debate tabled and secured by the Mullingar TD, Burke said he was happy that the IDA had informed him this week that they have engaged with the owners of Imperial Tobacco about marketing the site as suitable for potential FDI investors. Burke stated the property has been included on the IDA’s database of available office and manufacturing properties in the country and the IDA and EI are available to show the property to future potential clients. He also acknowledged Minister O’Connor’s visit to Mullingar earlier this year, and says that what we need now is tangible actions, not just the inclusion of the site in general plans.
“What we need is the Minister to drive the IDA hard on this, not only in relation to FDI, but for home grown and indigenous businesses too. We need to look at designating Mullingar as a centre of excellence in relation to robotics, as I am aware that there is a very active business locally with a large portfolio of international customers. If we organise that a hub like this in Mullingar is placed in the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, it could have huge potential to drive business forward in the county and in the midlands in general. Manufacturing has changed over the years, and we could become a leader on this issue if we were given the opportunity.
Burke stated that he looks forward to working with the Minister and her department on this initiative. He outlined that as Dublin runs out of manufacturing and office space, Mullingar must be ready to showcase its benefits, such as the skilled workforce, strong infrastructure and sites such as the former Imperial Tobacco plant along with the IDA business park in Marlinstown. He stated that the region has an opportunity and that he plans to push hard to ensure we get key investment and commerce into Mullingar.