THE shock announcement that US multinational Molex is to close its Shannon manufacturing base with the loss of 500 jobs will have major repercussions for the Mid West region.
Apart from the devastating impact on workers directly employed in the Shannon plant and several hundred others in ancillary industries, the closure has also raised questions about the region’s reliance on multi-national companies to deliver sustainable employment.
As one of the longest established US owned companies in the region, Molex was held up as an example of the benefits of Foreign Direct Investment to the national and regional economy.
But confirmation that the decision to close the Shannon operation was influenced by its heavy reliance on US trade with China, which has been devastated by President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, underlines the vulnerability of multi-national companies in the current economic climate.
The Illinois-based corporation said that, following a review of the product lines manufactured at its Irish facility, they had decided to close the plant by the end of 2020. The closure will take place in a series of phases, starting early next year.
The intransigence of the company’s approach was underlined on Wednesday when Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Heather Humphreys visited the Shannon plant only to be told that there would be no divergence from the decision to cease operations by the end of next year.
Minister Humphreys said she had spoken with the company’s chief executive who had expressed his deep regret at the decision.
“He made clear that, while the decision was made very reluctantly, it was irreversible. He explained it was a global decision made on the basis that 75 per cent of the product they manufacture in the Shannon plant is at end of life.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the company said that the decision was a very difficult one “due to its impact on our employees, and the deep ties Molex has with the region and its people having operated in Shannon since 1971”.
Shannon was Molex’s first European facility and most of its staff are from the Limerick/Clare area.
IDA Ireland Executive Director Mary Buckley said the agency would continue to work with the company to market the Shannon site to potential investors.
“Securing investment for Clare and the Mid West region is a continuing priority for IDA Ireland,” she said.
Limerick Fine Senator Kieran O’Donnell, who raised the issue in a Seanad debate on Tuesday, said that he had asked Minister Humphreys to prioritise engagement between the IDA and Molex to explore the creation of alternative replacement jobs by Molex.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said the Molex closure will be the biggest loss of jobs in the Mid-West since the Dell plant closed in 2009.
“Combined with job losses at Roche and Moneypoint, it’s clear the Mid-West needs far greater state support when it comes to jobs and employment opportunities.
“Also deeply concerning is the number of indirect jobs in local businesses which will also be affected by the announcement,” he said.