Tipperary’s two government ministers are locked in a bitter political row over a jobs announcement for Cashel.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Tom Hayes has accused Environment Minister Alan Kelly of using the issue for his own political gain and claiming credit for an announcement that Minister Hayes had made himself as far back as February.
The remarkable row between the government colleagues centres on the sale of the former Cordis pharmaceutical plant in Cashel which closed four years ago with the loss of 130 jobs.
Efforts have been ongoing to secure a replacement industry for the state-of-the-art premises and Minister Hayes announced in February that it had been sold to an unnamed Singapore company that had planned to use it for its European operations.
Only last week the Fine Gael minister pleaded for patience in relation to securing a replacement industry following criticism in the town about the lack of progress.
“Matters are at a very sensitive stage and I would ask people to be patient and calm”, he remarked.
Then on Monday his Labour Party colleague in government, Minister Alan Kelly welcomed confirmation that the Cordis site was to be sold to a major pharmaceutical company.
“This is a hugely significant development for South Tipperary and Cashel. I have been working with both former ambassador Joe Hayes and Joe Marten of Solidus, the site’s owners, to assist in securing a buyer”, Minister Kelly said.
In a separate statement, Solidus Private Equity, the Singapore-based investment company that owns the site, confirmed the sale to a world-leading manfucturer of generic pharmaceuticals.
Spokeswoman Una McGirr noted the key role played by Minister Kelly in facilitating the choice of Cashel and also mentioned the support of former ambassador Hayes.
The pharamaceutical firm buying the plant has not been named but it undersood to be US-based Amneal, one of the top pharamaceutical firms in the world.
However Minister Hayes reacted angrily to the announcement, accusing Minister Kelly of using it for his own political gain and going so far as to suggest that the intervention could jeopardise the sale.
“Alan Kelly came out this week claiming credit for the sale of the Cordis plant, an announcement which was actually made back in February”, he stated
And he continued - “This is nothing new. The sale of the former Cordis plant was announced back in February by Minister Richard Bruton and I. We are continuing to work closely with the company and the IDA as we await the announcement of how many jobs will be made available at the plant and when production will begin”.
And he added - “The process is still at a delicate stage and I would hate to see any jobs in Cashel jeopardised by people coming in at the eleventh hour and using Cashel for political gain.
“I am not aware of any involvement Alan Kelly had in the sale of the Cordis plant but it is important that as elected representatives, we work together for the betterment of the people of Tipperary and continue to work towards securing further employment for the people of Tipperary”.
Minister Hayes says he has been in contact with the planned US buyers of the plant since last November.
Meanwhile Independent TD Seamus Healy said this week he was claiming credit for pushing the sale of the Cordis plant to secure new jobs for Cashel. He said he had raised the issue in the Dail in February, asking why there had been no progress on the sale of the plant.
“I have been following this for sometime and it was only after I raised it in the Dail that Minister Hayes made his announcement”, he told The Nationalist this week.
In reply to Minister Hayes’ intervention on Tuesday, Minister Kelly said the deal had only gone through in the last two weeks so could not have been announced last February.
“Deputy Hayes seems to be completely confusing two totally different transactions, when it was purchased by Solidus (February) and when it was sold (last two weeks)”, he stated.
He added that Solidus purchased the site last February, but have only just announced its sale to a world leading pharmaceutical entity. This could not have happened in February, he claims.
In a statement, he said Solidus, along with former Ambassador Joe Hayes, approached him in April to seek his support to develop the site. They met in Leinster House and have been working with the IDA and others to secure a buyer.
As recently as Monday, Minister Kelly, discussed the matter with the CEO of the IDA, Martin Shanahan, who welcomed this as great progress, the statement said.
He added that the move to announce this was taken by the site’s owners.
“It is pretty clear that Deputy Hayes had no involvement in it or was even aware of it and is now scrambling to try and undermine what is good news for South Tipperary”, Minister Kelly said.
In his original statement on Monday, that drew the wrath of Minister Hayes, Minister Kelly said the sale was a key development in South Tipperary and he hoped it would see a significant number of jobs return to Cashel and Tipperary. He said he has worked with the site owners for the last few months to see the deal come through.
He added - “This is a hugely significant development for South Tipperary and Cashel. The news that one of world’s leading pharmaceutical companies has purchased the old Cordis site in Cashel shows that the site has tremendous job creation potential and will in time see jobs return to the area and be a huge contributor for employment for the area.
“The site has great potential as in pharmaceutical terms, it is clean and ready to go and would not require major refurbishment. I have been working with both former Ambassador Joe Hayes and Joe Marten of Solidus, the site’s owners, to assist in securing a buyer. We met Leinster House some months back and collectively we were able to work through all difficulties with the IDA and others to make sure this deal came through,
“The original intention was that this site would be used to develop Irish-based pharmaceutical research. However, the interest of a world-leading pharmaceutical company was too good to turn down. There was interest in other locations and other countries, but working with both Solidus and the IDA, I am delighted that the sale has gone through. I look forward to seeing further progress on the site in the future”.