Workers ponder reality of next mortgage instalment


THE BAD news that the Arlington Avon plant at Portarlington was closing travelled like lightning through the midlands yesterday.

It spread from the Arlington canteen, where the news had been broken formally to the employees by the managing director, Mr John Hanarahan, as they left in distress for their homes all over the region.

He had given the employees, most of them women, the rest of the day off to consider their futures, which are bleak indeed in an area of severe unemployment.

In a cafe in Edenderry three weeping women were consoling a colleague who kept asking how she could possibly afford to pay the rent and support her children.

There was a funereal air over the town itself. Knots of distressed and shocked people talked on the quiet streets under a low, threatening sky. The plant itself was deserted.

The workforce, described by the company as "dedicated, committed and flexible", had dispersed to contemplate the future.

Near Odlums Mills a worker who was walking home told me he was almost afraid to go home to his wife, who is unwell, to tell her he will have no job in eight weeks' time.

In Michael Manley's pub, not far from the plant, three women workers with combined service of well over 40 years were-ashen faced with the strain.

"A lot of tears were shed this morning, not just by the workers but by the management as well," said the youngest woman in the group, who had worked in the plant since she was 17.

Her colleague had 21 years' service and faced a bleak future because she has paid off only three years of her mortgage. However, she was brave because her husband has work.

"There are 19 couples working at the plant and they are in a very serious situation. We are not too bad but they must be very, very shocked," she said.

A third woman said she had come back from England to work at the plant, where she had been very, very happy over the years. She did not know if she would get another job.

There was gloom as well among the traders of Portarlington. Their spokesman, Mr Ronnie Matthews, said the closure would have an impact on all the business ventures in the area. "While it will hit us all very hard it will hit the workers much harder," he said.

The proprietor of the Railway Bar, Mr Shay Gallagher, said: "This will have a severe impact as far away as Edenderry, Portlaoise and Tullamore and especially the small villages around here."