After 80 years in production, the Carlow sugar factory closes with a loss of 190 full time jobs.
The last shift at the Irish Sugar factory in Carlow was a quiet one, as all the large machinery had already been switched off. When employees clocked out for the final time they bid goodbye to a factory and an industry that is almost as old as the state itself.
European Union (EU) reforms on sugar policy is the reason for the shutters coming down here. Greencore, the company who owns and operates the factory, are consolidating sugar production at their Mallow plant.
Sugar has been manufactured in Carlow since 1926, and in 1933 the Irish government set up Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, the company which took over the plant, and which also established other factories in Mallow, Thurles and Tuam.
A vital part of the Carlow economy, the factory provided jobs for workers and guaranteed a regular income for farmers who grew the sugar beet.
News of the factory’s closure was announced in January and was followed by a major protest by sugar beet farmers and suppliers, but to no avail.
The company was adamant that the shutdown would have to go ahead.
Factory worker PL Curran came up to meet his colleagues, and described the mood as,
People are very very down, the mood is very bad.
Another worker was remembering past co-workers,
All the people who worked here down the years since 1926, they gave their life to it.
Farmers in Leinster must now send their beet one hundred miles away to Mallow to be processed, and Peadar Jordan of the Carlow Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is hopeful that beet growers will remain in business,
We have to be optimistic that there is a future for sugar beet growing in this country.
This afternoon the sugar company paid tribute to the generations of workers who helped build this industry. But tonight, sugar production in Carlow is a thing of the past.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 11 March 2005. The reporter is Joe O’Brien.