Hunt begins for new MBNA suitor in Carrick-on-Shannon

Cllr Sinead Guckian speaks to RTE's Eileen Maguire following last Thursday's devastating jobs blow to Carrick-on-Shannon.
Government and State agency chiefs have just over three months to find a new investor to take over the running of MBNA’s call centre in Co Leitrim.

Government and State agency chiefs have just over three months to find a new investor to take over the running of MBNA’s call centre in Co Leitrim.

Staff at the Carrick-on-Shannon plant learned of the company’s plan to close its operation last Thursday, leading to the loss of 160 jobs.

The financial services company said its decision to close the plant at the end of November came after a comprehensive review of its customer contact centre operations in Britain and Ireland.

Government bosses, led by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, vowed to ensure all avenues would be explored in a bid to save as many jobs as possible.

Locally, however, the fallout has raised concerns about the possibility of attracting a potential suitor for MBNA’s purpose built headquarters.

“It will be hard to get that sort of industry in,” said Longford Chamber of Commerce president Fintan McGill.

“Leitrim has the lowest intake on the property tax and the second lowest is Longford which says it all.”

Despite the Longford auctioneer’s sobering analysis, he said the news of the job losses couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“It’s devastating for them (workers), it really is,” he said.

“No doubt some of these people have mortagages and what with higher college fees and the like also coming in it’s very hard.”

Mr McGill said the only redeeming positive to draw from the episode was the fact nothing similar had taken place in Longford.

“Thank God something like that hasn’t happened in Longford even though unemployment is as poor as it is,” he added.

Two years ago, MBNA sold a large share of the company to AvantCard. It’s been confirmed there are no threats however to that firm’s 200 positions which carry out operations from the same site.

Details of last Thursday’s sudden announcement is not the first time job fears have arisen at MBNA.

In the last five years the company has lost about 65 per cent of calls to its Irish centre which only serviced UK customers following the sale of its Irish credit card operation in 2012.

That fall off in activity amounted to about 10 million calls a year.

As government officials this week begin the search for new investors, local representatives said the loss of 160 jobs to a town the size of Carrick-on-Shannon was particularly troubling.

Cathaoirleach of Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal District, Cllr Sean McGowan said the news would have far-reaching consequences on Leitrim and the midlands as a whole.

“In addition to the personal loss to the employees and their families it’s a real hammer blow to the town of Carrick-on Shannon, to Leitrim and to neighbouring counties,” he said. “The loss of 160 jobs in Carrick would equate to almost 1000 in Dublin.”

Fellow Dromod based Councillor Des Guckian said last Thursday’s announcement would go down as “one of the worst and most disastrous days” to have hit the greater Carrick-on-Shannon regions.

Others, like Cllr Eugene Murphy said the short timeframe between now and November necessitated swift and decisive action.