Border region hit by job loss ‘tsunami’

About nine hundred staff at Quinn Insurance Ltd will be made redundant over the next 12 to 15 months as part of a major restructuring of the business by its joint administrators.

This represents over one third of the company’s 2,450-strong workforce, and was announced without prior consultation with the affected staff.

The administrators said they wanted 350 redundancies by July as part of a “first phase” with the balance over the following 12 months.

The biggest hit will be at the insurer’s Blanchardstown office, where 301 redundancies are being sought. In Cavan, they intend to cut 226 positions, while 109 will go in Navan, County Meath, and 179 jobs will be cut at its branch in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

Staff will be offered only four weeks’ pay per year of service in addition to their statutory entitlement.

The move came after the new Financial Regulator in the 26 Counties raised concerns about the group’s ability to pay out on future claims after a sharp decline in the financial position of the group’s head, Sean Quinn.

The Quinn Group, which is controlled by the family of Mr Quinn and is the shareholder in the insurance business, said it was prepared to sell the insurer.

Liam McCaffrey, chief executive of the Quinn Group, said its board had considered a number of options but had now “reluctantly” settled on a sale to follow the reduncancies.

He said in view of “the funding required to meet the solvency requirements laid down by the financial regulator, the future of Quinn Insurance is probably best protected under new ownership”.

Peter McBride, who owns three shops near Quinn’s headquarters in County Fermanagh, says the community there had been dreading the possibility of job losses.

“This has been hanging over us for weeks now and there has been an expectation that it wasn’t going to go away. A lot of Quinn’s staff live and work in the local area . . . there has been a quiet resignation that something like this was going to happen, but the reality of it is something else.”

The MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew said she wanted an urgent meeting with the administrators to discuss the potential redundancies.

In Cavan, traders spoke of an economic “tsunami” for the county arising from the possibility of up to 500 job losses locally.

President of Cavan Chamber of Commerce Eamon McDwyer echoed the indignation of Quinn workers over the lack of consultation about redundancies.

He said the issue was greater from an economic view for the Cavan-Fermanagh border region than a “political decision” to provide funding for Greece. He added they were calling on Minister for Enterprise and Trade Batt O’Keeffe to visit the area for an urgent on-the-spot assessment.

Sinn Fein Dail leader and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghin O Caolain said the job losses were “a devastating blow”.

“This jobs disaster is so devastating because the Border region is so dependent on the Quinn group for employment. No region should have to depend so much on one employer or one group of companies for so much of its employment.

“For that situation successive Irish governments must be held responsible, given their disgraceful neglect of the Border region which for decades they have failed to develop in terms of inward investment and targeted assistance for indigenous enterprise.

“The absence of proper regulation has also played its part in this jobs disaster; its presence may well have helped to ensure that Quinn Insurance and the wider Quinn Group had a sounder financial position and that jobs were in place on a stable basis.

“This jobs disaster now requires a real and sustained Government response. Every effort must be made to rejuvenate this business where possible, to retain existing jobs in Quinn insurance and the Quinn group and to take targeted action to sustain existing jobs and to create new jobs in the wider economy in the Border region. Meaningless and token task forces are unacceptable. Real investment and real strategies are required, with a hands-on approach by the State and all its relevant agencies.”

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