Memory and Malice 1 Year After Dell Closure Announcement: Where is the Outrage?

Today marks a year since the announcement of Dell's closure in Limerick. Unemployment has since soared in the region, particularly among young men. The (interim) findings of the Dell Taskforce have not been implemented, the 21 million Euros earmarked by the EU and the Irish government for Dell workers has not, to my knowledge, made its way into the real economy.

The people of Limerick deserve an explanation for the government's failure to implement the Regeneration plan, which would reduce the youth unemployment by creating construction jobs for several years, as well as stimulating the local economy. The people of Limerick deserve an account of what will be done with the 21 million Euros, and by when. The people of Limerick, and especially their unemployed, deserve more than an empty set of toothless recommendations put together by an overpaid committee 7 months after Dell decided it would leave.

In the Irish Times, a year ago today, I argued that a focused strategy could help resolve Limerick's unemployment difficulties, with off-the -shelf employment schemes and business creation initiatives, and shovel-ready projects like the Regeneration initiatives put into motion, with increased borrowing from abroad, if need be. In the case of Limerick, I believe the borrowing would return its investment into the local economy.

I have long argued that Dell's leaving of Limerick is part of a cyclical process. In 1978 the region's major employer, Ferenka left, costing 1900 jobs, and devastating the local economy. In 1998, Krups left, with the loss of 1400 jobs. In 2009, Dell left, and at least 4000 jobs were directly and indirectly lost as a result. One large employer is not what Limerick needs. We need a series of initiatives to sponsor indigenous industry in Limerick to break this cycle.

I believe a fundamental problem in Irish life is our lack of memory. We are quick to judge, to castigate, mutter 'this is terrible', and to move on, without demanding accountability, recompense, or satisfaction from our government and its representatives. Most of the time, when a serious problem presents itself, the will (and responsibility) to affect a change is lost in a quagmire of state agencies, even if the funding is available to the agencies in question. Take the Dell Taskforce. As well as the authors of the report, stakeholders included: Enterprise Ireland, UL, LIT, several county enterprise boards, Shannon development, IDA, FÁS, Fáilte Ireland, and Tourism Ireland. Bureaucracy and inefficient overlaps abound. One year on from Dell's announcement, nothing has been achieved by any of these agencies. Nothing. The lack of memory, and also the lack of any outrage at the lack of work done, is unbelievable.

Inquiries in to Ireland's recent flooding have shown our agencies are skilled at inter-quango buck-passing, rather than delivering effective flood protection measures. Primetime's expose of the overlaps between the various agencies involved in flood protection shows one thing clearly: not only is there no accountability, there is no responsibility felt by the councils or the quangos to those damaged by the floods. There is only the limitation of liability.

Two constructive lessons can be drawn from these experiences. First, the Irish solution to any problem-- setting up a committee--doesn't work, unless its members are tasked with enforcing any recommendations they might make. Second, accountability needs to be increased, with appropriate penalties for those who fall short of delivering the services they are mandated to provide. Only when we begin remembering just what we were promised, can we exact a punishment for our government's failure to live up to our legitimate expectations.

6 Replies to “Memory and Malice 1 Year After Dell Closure Announcement: Where is the Outrage?”

  1. A taskforce is an exercise in (Robin) Hansonian signaling: the conspicuous expenditure of resources to convey information to others. Information that 'we care', for example. Or it's all about 'optics' if you prefer.

    The surprise is not that the taskforce has not delivered: the surprise would have been if it had. Frankly the Dell workers would have been better off with a 'Carlsberg loan' ('pay it back when you can') of, say, E100k each, with the only criterion being that they have to set up their own companies to get and spend the money (thereafter subject to normal tax and other reporting activities).

    But it wouldn't have made a great photo opportunity to do so: back to signaling again ...

  2. Maybe I am just a smug Jackeen but...whats so special about Dell and/or Limerick? Companies come and go - as you point out yourself- so I am wondering why one particular one closing merits such special attention. Well you might say the size is one thing. So if another firm say one quarter the size went would there be a similar deal from EU with proportionate funding? I guess not. Employers come and go - and there are a lot going now esewhere- and dealing with them should be the normal activity of certain state/semi-state bodies. Why we need a special iniative here- beyond the politics of it is unclear.

  3. @ Gerard,

    Wouldn't an injection of vouchers and/or cash a month or two after the announcement of the closure be a credible signal as well? Stories the TDs could point to when getting grilled on what they've been doing about things?

    @ Kevin,

    As a fellow Jackeen, I can see where you're coming from, but if Microsoft decided to leg it tomorrow, you can be sure some accommodation would be found. Size does, of course, matter, but the only way I see to break the cycle of these employers coming and going in a global marketplace is to generate businesses to replace them-which is really, really hard, I think, to do in a short space of time, unless you live by a gold mine.

    (Though we do have Thomond Park, I guess)

  4. Actually there has been a lot of action related to the Limerick region and Dell. However none of it is good. As you indicated above, the MidWest taskforce produced an interim report, however this was full of solutions from an already faulty model. None of this has (luckily) been implemented but it shows that their own suggestions aren't even followed.
    On top of that the 20-odd million of combined EU & Irish government money will go straight into FAS, an organisation already proven to be corrupt & incompetent (http://bit.ly/5v3hIA).
    An even more interesting twist is that Dell has since sold on the factory in Lodz which was at the root of the mass redundancies in Limerick (http://bit.ly/6vPKEe).
    It seems again that the solution to this "problem" has to come from the private sector...

    1. Evert, I don't know that you can say FAS are proven to be corrupt, but we can definitely agree that little has been done. It was interesting reading Sabrina's story, it echoed the Collison story for me.

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