jobs and the costs of doing business toplined both Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore’s campaign swings through Portlaoise last Friday afternoon.
Fears over unemployment and jobs prospects were voiced to Mr Kenny during a lunchtime walk through at the Laois Shopping Centre. Michelle O’Shea, who has been unemployed for the past two years, told the Fine Gael leader she was scared about the future.
“I have heard enough empty promises,” she stated. “I’ve been out of work for two years and there is nothing out there. I am scared about the future. He (Enda Kenny) basically told us that a new government would work on job creation, but he pointed out that all our hands are tied at the moment.”
Job creation and economic growth formed the theme of Kenny’s earlier visit to the LSM engineering plant at Ballymacken. “The banks are functioning, but functioning in reverse,” John Cummins told him at LSM.
Mr Cummins painted a microcosm of the difficulties facing Irish businesses when he highlighted how LSM had to readjust its strategy following the virtual collapse of the domestic market in 2009. The company, which manufactures commercial waste disposal balers, is now export orientated and will experience a forecasted ten per cent growth this year.
The cost of doing business domestically was also highlighted. Mr Cummins said that transport costs to Australia worked out at 40 euros per unit, whereas it would cost substantially more to transport to Ballina.
“LSM belies the myth that you cannot have heavy manufacturing in Ireland, and export,” responded Enda Kenny. “Companies such as LSM are the fundamental engine of the Irish economy,” he added, outlining a four point FG plan to get capital flowing again.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore heard similar concerns later on Friday afternoon. “I’m a public servant are you going to look after me,” queried Department of Agriculture employee Christina Troy. “It’s a very important question. We have made it very clear that there won’t be compulsory redundancies, but there is a need for a reform,” stated Mr Gilmore.
Local business was also on the Labour leader’s agenda. Committing to backing green enterprises, he said he had been brought to the almost vacant IDA park in Portlaoise and believed that there were options for the Park. He said it was ready for “technology and research centres” which would attract a cluster of specialised home-grown businesses.
Friday’s visit to Portlaoise was part of the putative leaders day long national schedule, though neither visits clashed. Mr Kenny was accompanied by local candidates Charlie Flanagan and John Moran and Eamon Gilmore by Labour candidate, John Whelan.