Boat operators on last warning as Judge threatens them with closure
THE operation of a ferry service to Clare Island could be put in jeopardy after Judge Mary Devins warned two local ferry operators that the continuing bickering between them has to stop. Judge Devins cautioned both Brian O’Grady and Charles O’Malley that she will order both their portacabins where they sell their tickets from on Roonagh Pier to be closed if there is the "slightest blink between them" for the rest of the busy summer period. At last week’s adjourned hearing Mr. Patrick Durcan, solicitor for O’Grady and Mr. Myles Staunton, solicitor for O’Malley, said both their clients had complied with the undertakings given to the court at a previous sitting. However, an application was made by O’Malley for his portacabin to swap location with O’Grady’s midway through the tourist season. Mr. Staunton said his client has experienced significant commercial disadvantage by the position of his cabin. He was asking that midway through the season the portacabins would swap positions. "When a customer parks and comes down to buy a ticket the first portacabin he comes to is Brian O’Grady’s. Tourists have no loyalty to either and tend to go to the first cabin for convenience" said Mr Staunton. Mr. Durcan said Charles O’Malley had this advantage in May and June. His clients were running this service for 123 years. The undertakings given last month were given by two serious and intelligent commercial people. The court shouldn’t interfere with that. Judge Mary Devins said O’Malley was in court on the last occasion, he wasn’t a naive newcomer to the business or that location. He must have been aware what the location of each portacabin meant in commercial terms. "Knowing the history between these two families I have to say that I am looking at this application with something of a jaundiced eye" said Judge Devins.
Something of a jaundiced eye indeed! If you have travelled on a ferry to Clare Island recently you may not have been aware of the Clare Island Ferry Wars. Clare Island – a place we go for peace and quiet, some rural tranquillity. But human nature out there is the same as anywhere else it seems and the position of a ticket sales portacabin can lead to serious conflict if it impacts on commercial realities. Of course if you heard the exchanges of views between the two portacabins referred to in the court you may be fully aware of the dispute which landed the parties to the ferry wars into court.
Black day for Castlebar as Volex axes 170 jobs
IF anyone in Mayo needed reminding that the Celtic Tiger economy is truly dead and buried it came last week with the announcement that Volex was to lay off 170 of its manufacturing staff in Castlebar.
Volex was one of the flagship companies in Mayo in the 1990s and, at one stage, employed almost 1,000 workers. But the last three years have seen one redundancy announcement follow another as the U.K.-based multinational implemented its dreaded "downsizing" plan. The workforce at Volex has now been reduced to a paltry 70 employees, a scenario that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.
It looks like globalisation (cheaper eastern European labour in this case) and the downfall of the telecoms industry generally has finally done for Volex’s manufacturing facility. It brings back memories of probably an even blacker day when Baxter announced the loss of over 1000 jobs – at a time when this was perhaps one third of the total working population of Castlebar. At least now the whole town doesn’t go into a tailspin every time a factory closes as we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. Nonetheless 170 jobs lost will have a major impact. It points up the need for Castlebar and Ireland more generally to become innovators again, to develop ideas rather than simply putting other peoples ideas together and shipping them. The fact that we now have an Institute of Technology in town is an advantage. With a range of courses and expertise within its walls it is a major resource for the town and it should be drawn upon. The Heritage Course run in GMIT, for example, is potentially a generator of many jobs with innovative new sustainable tourism opportunities – tourism is now our largest industry so don’t dismiss the idea that tourism jobs should replace assembly line Volex jobs. There is no use just calling for the generic ‘task force’ and ‘replacement industries’ or blaming the government for ignoring the West. We know they ignore us. The scandal of the unspent BMW ‘funds’ is a case in point. If we want to create sustainable employment here in town we need to create it for ourselves – put our own task forces together. If we haven’t got enough ideas of our own or enough of our own get-up-and-go then we should just through the hat at it. Remember the Telecom Eireann information age town competition? Back in 1997 one little competition got 4000 to 5000 people out on the Mall supporting local initiative in a very positive way. Hundreds of people contributed to the document full of ideas that pulled one million pounds into Castlebar – not much but such enthusiasm for a relatively small prize. One tangible result was the Cedar building – Knxus are recruiting at the moment. Why not go for the big prize in a similar fashion?. The current push for the Western Rail Corridor is the kind of get-up-and-go that is needed. A railway line, however, will not of its own produce local ideas and local entrepreneurs. We can’t just put out the hand and say – "gissa a few coppers guv" or wave the "Gissa Job" sign in the faces of political passers-by. Castlebar has to do it for itself.