Pharmaceutical firm MSD has announced plans to close its plant in Swords in North Co Dublin by the end of 2017, which would result in the loss of 570 jobs.

The company said today that no job losses would occur before the middle of next year at the earliest, but said it plans to lay off about 130 people in the second half of 2014.

The rest of the jobs at Swords will be phased out over the next three years. 

The Swords plant makes a range of family planning products and a treatment for fertility for sale to 50 countries world wide. 

The company said the proposed action is as a result of an ongoing review of its worldwide manufacturing capabilities. 

It said it plans to work with IDA Ireland to aggressively pursue a buyer for the facility in order to potentially mitigate job losses.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Richard Bruton said the phased closure of the plant was an unusual situation as it involved the merger of two large companies which created an excess capacity.

He said that MSD's other facilities in Ireland were secure.

Mir Bruton said that he was determined to avail of the opportunity of the phased closure to find new buyers for the plant.

He said the decision by MSD to relocate the facility to the Netherlands was no reflection on the cost base or the quality of the workforce.

The minister said the pipeline of investment was strong in the pharmaceutical sector and there was an appetite for investment by companies in Ireland which the Government would go after.

In a statement, the IDA said the extended lead-in time of 2017 will facilitate IDA Ireland greatly in finding a buyer.

MSD also employs over 2,000 people in Carlow, Cork, Leopardstown, Tipperary and Wicklow. These sites are not affected by today's announcement.

It announced the closure of the site in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow last March. That site is expected to close by the end of 2015.

"Swords has been an important manufacturing site since 1990 and has a long history of operational excellence," said Tony Pusic, MSD's Site Director. 

"The proposal to cease operations is not a reflection of the site's performance or the highly skilled people working here. The proposal is an outcome of MSD's ongoing review of its worldwide manufacturing capacity that has resulted in sites being sold, closed or consolidated in all regions of the world," he added.