Irish Distillers is to close its North Mall bottling facility in Cork with the loss of 28 jobs. The plant will close at the end of May.

The company blamed the closure on falling sales of whiskey and gin after last year's Budget increased excise duty on spirits. One of their customers, Cantrell and Cochrane, also failed to renew a bottling contract for Tullamore Dew Whiskey at the plant.

In a statement, Irish Distillers said that after the 42% excise duty increase imposed on spirits in the 2003 budget, year on year spirit sales for 2003 in the domestic market are down 20%. Domestic sales of Irish whiskey are down by 16% and gin sales are down by 14%.

Irish Distillers said their bottling operations at Fox & Geese in Dublin and Bushmills in Co Antrim, will continue to serve as their bottling facilities for both domestic and international markets.