Delegation to secure Smithwick’s visitor centre

Following the announcement of the closure of the St Francis Abbey by Diageo, City Mayor David Fitzgerald and County Council Cathoirleach Paul Cuddihy met with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton in the Department of Enterprise. Minister Bruton acknowledged the seriousness of the announcement for Kilkenny’s economy and restated that the South East is a priority jobs location for the government.

Following the announcement of the closure of the St Francis Abbey by Diageo, City Mayor David Fitzgerald and County Council Cathoirleach Paul Cuddihy met with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton in the Department of Enterprise. Minister Bruton acknowledged the seriousness of the announcement for Kilkenny’s economy and restated that the South East is a priority jobs location for the government.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said that there would be no change in the regional aid structure in the South East that is relied upon to attract foreign investment. Kilkenny is included in the South East region and the existing plan for the South East was drawn up in 2006 and will not be reviewed until 2013, according to the department. The South East currently offers indigenous firms at the rate of 10% for large companies and 20% and 30% for medium and small firms. Other regions in Ireland such as the Border, Midlands and Western regions offer up to 35% and have historically given grant aid of 50%.

Speaking with ministers, Mayor Fitzgerald sought the support to retain the brewery visitors’ centre, which has become a major tourism attraction in recent years.

Mayor Fitzgerald told the Kilkenny People that he was seeking a commitment by Diageo to the visitors’ centre beyond 2013.

“We need to the ensure that tourism employment is retained despite the bad news on the brewing jobs. Tourists come from across Europe to visit the home of Kilkenny beer,” he said.

Cllr Cuddihy emphasised that the government was committed to job creation as its top priority. Since coming in to Government. Environment Minister Phil Hogan has ensured a number of key projects are funded including a €13 million extension to St Luke’s Hospital.

Both local leaders said the meeting was one of a number of steps in Kilkenny they are taking to retain and create new job prospects.