Clonakilty devastated after fire destroys chicken-processing plant

 

The west Cork town of Clonakilty was yesterday counting the cost of a fire at Shannon Vale Foods which caused more than £5 million worth of damage and has put up to 90 jobs temporarily at risk. The fire at the company on the outskirts of the town was spotted by an employee arriving for work shortly before 6 a.m.

He raised the alarm, and units of the fire brigade from Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Bandon attended the scene.

Fire crews spent almost 10 hours fighting the fire and dampening it down. It was confined to a £1.8 million extension built in 1991, but the estimated bill for the damage is £5 million, according to the sales manager, Mr Noel O'Callaghan.

The family-owned business employs 90 people and a further 25 chicken-suppliers in the greater Clonakilty area, Mr O'Callaghan said.

The company was among the top six chicken-processors in the country, processing 50,000 birds a week, he added.

Yesterday Shannon Vale's managing director, Mr James O'Regan, whose father established the business in 1885, spoke of the devastation and the consequences for the firm and its employees.

"I'm shocked. I thought when I was called in the morning before six o'clock that it might be a small fire, but it wasn't until I arrived here, within 10 minutes, that I saw that the new factory was devastated," Mr O'Regan said.

"We've been in Clonakilty for 115 years. Our family have been very proud of it. It was sad for us and sad for the people who work here and depend on it. Most of the employees are from Clonakilty town. It's devastating because we are the biggest employers here.

"It was too bad, but at the same time once nobody was killed or injured or trapped inside, I felt relieved."

Mr O'Regan said the company was determined to reopen as soon as possible, but it would not be ready for at least several months. It would have to decide what to do in the interim. The damaged extension was involved in the production of items such as breaded chicken. Mr O'Callaghan said two pieces of equipment, a £500,000 breading machine and a £250,000 deep freeze, had been destroyed.

"We're meeting tonight to see exactly what we're going to do. We've had insurance assessors in today.

"If we could knock the walls tonight and start work on a new building we would, but that's not possible," he said.

Yesterday Garda technical experts examined the scene and found several locations where the fire might have started.

So far they have been unable to establish the cause, although foul play is not suspected at this stage. The investigation is continuing.