“Is this a debating society or is it a council meeting?” was the question posed by Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn on Monday afternoon, after the council had spent almost an hour debating back and forth across the chamber on the issue of the recent jobs news in Castlebar. Flynn, who will not be running in next year’s local elections after he opted to step down after only one term, said: “We’ve been here for an hour and we haven’t made one mention of anything we can effect.”
The debate had been started by Fine Gael whip Joe Mellett who welcomed the news that Northgate Information Solutions would be setting up in Castlebar and providing 150 jobs over the coming three years, before expressing his sadness over the news that Baxter would be cutting 110 people from its workforce over the coming months.
Numerous councillors had their say on the announcement, with Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell proposing that a high level delegation from Mayo go to Baxter’s headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, to meet Baxter management to speak to them and lobby for the future of their plants in Mayo, similar to what happened in the 1980s when there were similar fears for their future. McDonnell said that the decisions being made by Baxter were strategic, and about the redeployment to cheaper countries for labour and these decisions were being made in the Illinois base.
Cllr McDonnell’s proposal was backed by his party colleagues Cllr Blackie Gavin and Cllr Damien Ryan. With Gavin also saying that he believed the Taoiseach had taken his eye off the ball with the setting up of a call centre for Irish Water being established in Cork when he believed it should have come to Castlebar, and he told the meeting he had said that to the Taoiseach.
Cllr Frank Durcan said that in the middle of all this people were forgetting about the one, two, or three jobs that are being lost on a regular basis in the small local businesses in the towns around Mayo, and “they are also having a serious effect on the jobs situation around the county and that we are exporting our best and brightest to the rest of the world.”
The debate finished up after 4pm on Monday, before the council moved on to the first item on the agenda, the meeting had started shortly after 3pm.