The past six weeks have been very difficult for employees at Roche in Clarecastle due to the uncertainty created by a decision to discontinue permanently clinical trials of a new block buster cholesterol drug called dalcetrapib by the Roche Group. This decision brought about a strategic review of the Roche Group’s entire global operation. The uncertainty created by the strategic review was a cause of huge concern for workers and their families. Roche’s plant in Clarecastle makes such an immense contribution to the local and regional economy. For the past six weeks, I have been in close contact with management, unions representatives and workers in Roche. When the decision to suspend clinical trials was made known, I made direct contact with the IDA and I also met with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD. Thankfully, last week the uncertainty surrounding the plants future was removed with the announcement following the strategic review that the plant in Clarecastle would be unaffected. There is no doubt this decision came about due to the quality of the workforce, the quality of the plant and the quality of the products produced in Clarecastle. This was a commercial decision by the Roche Group. The fact that Ireland has become a more competitive place to do business in and Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax rate were factors in this positive decision. Unfortunately a number of businesses ceased trading in the past weeks, such as Francie Daly Motors, Citygate Renault dealership and Curley Furniture. These closures are hugely regrettable and illustrate the massive pressures on small to medium sized businesses. One of the most pressing issues for small business is the lack of available credit. Last week, legislation for a new micro financing scheme passed second stage in the Dáil. This scheme will make loans available to small businesses who are struggling to avail of credit elsewhere. Details of the scheme are available on my website.
The work on restructuring and rebuilding Shannon Airport’s future continues. Last week, the Minister for Transport, Mr. Leo Varadkar was in Dromoland where he gave a speech to a business aviation conference an also provided an up-date on Shannon Airport. I spent time with the Minister and met with many local and indeed international aviation experts. In his address, Minister Varadkar expressed the view that urgency is required in the ongoing work of rebuilding Shannon Airport’s fortunes. He confirmed that the steering group and task forces have been asked to report back sooner and that as work is completed by these groups it will be implemented.
In the Dáil, I spoke during the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012. This is a very important piece of legislation, which criminalises the withholding of information on certain arrestable offences against children and vulnerable adults. It aims to protect children and vulnerable adults from serious offences including sexual offences. Given all that we have learned in this Country in the past decades about how we have failed some of our most vulnerable children in the State this is a very significant and important piece of legislation.