Belfast Telegraph

GAA gear firm O'Neills 'puts growth on hold due to Brexit'

By John Mulgrew

Sportswear maker O'Neills has said it is putting a planned expansion on hold until its gets clarity over what Brexit will mean for its business.

The firm, which is best known for producing GAA tops and is based in Dublin, says it is putting investment in its manufacturing base in Strabane on hold.

The company is headed by managing director Kieran Kennedy, who was speaking to the BBC about what impact the UK's exit from the EU would have on business.

"We are in a state of limbo and we don't know what is happening," he said.

"It could have a major effect on our businesses, in part with our employees in terms of free travel from Donegal, where 50% of our staff are employed.

"We are not sure about tariffs and duties, and things like that. And no one can tell us that.

"That's our biggest fear - 95% of the garments produced in Strabane are exported over the border and further afield.

"If we don't have the same demand, it certainly will have an impact on jobs.

"We have to wait to find out what is happening before we put our major expansion plans in progress."

The company employs around 500 staff here.

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said that as O'Neills is one of Strabane's biggest employers the comments are "deeply worrying".

"It is deeply concerning that company director Kieran Kennedy has said that as a result of the uncertainty created by the decision to trigger Brexit that ambitious investment plans have had to be put on hold and that existing jobs could be potentially lost.

"In a series of meetings and discussions with other major employers and small businesses in the Strabane area, similar grave concerns are also being expressed to me about the current and future negative fallout of Brexit.

"The news about O'Neills highlights the need for special designated status to allow the north to remain within the within the European Union."

The company said it had nothing further to add.

In its latest accounts, the company said: "Although the growth in the UK and worldwide economics strengthened in 2015, the impending exit of the UK from the EU and the associated uncertainty is a considerable risk to further development.

"The company aims to remain competitive in the market by reviewing component costs, pricing and profit profile."

A number of companies have already issued warnings over the impact Brexit could have on business.

Northern Ireland pharmaceutical firm Almac has said its decision to open premises in the Republic was a direct result of Brexit.

Almac, based in Craigavon, told a House of Commons committee it had not been in a position to wait and see the outworkings of the UK departure from the EU.

The company had instead decided to open up a facility in Dundalk to provide reassurance to export customers that its access to the single market would continue following Brexit.

And financial services companies have chosen the Republic as their post-Brexit location of choice, but they have yet to make public announcements, Martin Shanahan, the chief of the Industrial Development Authority in the Republic, has insisted.

Dublin has long been tipped as a potential contender for Brexit spoils from the City of London.

However, the city has recently lost out to Luxembourg, Brussels and Frankfurt after big name insurers AIG, Lloyds and Standard Chartered revealed their future plans.

Belfast Telegraph

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