Threat of over 100 job losses at Ballinasloe firm raised in the Dáil

Concerns about the future of just over 100 jobs at the Ballinasloe base of US manufacturing firm Aptar were raised in the Dáil this week.

It's feared that the local facility will close in the months ahead, but the now-Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister, Leo Varadkar, said his office and IDA Ireland would be working to "protect as many of those jobs as we can and see what alternatives can be found, if at all possible."

The company, which has its only Irish facility at the IDA Business and Technology Park on the Creagh Road in Ballinasloe, makes dispensing units for the cosmetics industry.

No official statement has been forthcoming from Aptar as of yet, but it's understood that workers were briefed about the potential closure last Thursday, and fears about the company's future have been voiced by local Senator Eugene Murphy and TD Denis Naughten.

Deputy Naughten was unable to attend the Dáil sitting yesterday but the threat to the Aptar facility was raised on his behalf by a fellow member of the Regional Independent group of TDs, Verona Murphy.

"My colleague, Deputy Denis Naughten, who is unavoidably detained today, requested that I ask the Tánaiste about the steps that are now being taken to secure jobs at Aptar in Ballinasloe," said Deputy Murphy.

"Deputy Naughten is requesting that the Tánaiste consider bringing all State agencies and the two local authorities in Galway and Roscommon together to implement a co-ordinated strategy for the town and the surrounding communities. I understand that Deputy Naughten has written to the Tánaiste directly and he might furnish him with a response."

Mr Varadkar said he was aware that Denis Naughten "has a particular interest in the matter of Aptar," adding that the Independent TD and the new local Fine Gael Senator, Aisling Dolan, had contacted his office directly about the issue.

"We do not yet know how many job losses there will be, but IDA Ireland and my office will get involved to see what we might be able to do to protect as many of those jobs as we can and see what alternatives can be found, if at all possible," said the new Tánaiste.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent yesterday (Tuesday), local Senator Eugene Murphy said it appeared to him that Aptar was intent on pulling out of Ballinasloe.

His understanding was that the facility may close by September, which would be "a devastating blow" for Ballinasloe and surrounding areas.

"It's terrible news, and it will hit South Roscommon and the Athlone region pretty badly as well. There's a lot of workers from the region in that factory and again, for a small town of less than 7,000 people, it's a huge blow.

"I've seen some of the language that the company are using and, to me, it seems very much the case that they are withdrawing but are doing it very subtly and very patiently."

Senator Murphy said he had seen correspondence issued to Aptar staff last week in which the company expressed misgivings about insurance and other costs associated with doing business in Ireland. The Fianna Fáil representative said last week's development had come as a shock to the staff.

"It would appear, from talking to the workers, that this has come as a bolt out of the blue. Some workers informed me that they were so busy they had gone on a 60-hour week, because with the business they're in, dispensers, business went up when the pandemic hit," he said.

This newspaper contacted the Aptar facility on Friday and was told that media queries were being directed to the firm's head office in the US. We emailed the US office but, at the time of writing, we had not received a response.