Bleak Christmas for Kingscourt Brick workers

This story was included in the archives section of the Christmas Cheer annual, detailing a memorable story covered by our own Sean McMahon where the Senior Journalist sat with workers on the picket line.

While most people were at home enjoying Christmas dinner with the family, a number of the Lagan Brick workers in Kingscourt who are manning the entrance to the plant had a simple dinner at an open air table. Twenty-nine men lost their jobs at the former Kingscourt Brick factory and have launched a 24-hour vigil outside the plant in a quest to get an enhanced severance deal from the company.

They are angry that they had to learn of the closure from shop stewards and claim they got just one hour’s notice.

The Anglo-Celt now understands that the matter is in the course of being referred to the Labour Relations Commission by SIPTU and industrial organiser John Regan is hopeful of getting an early hearing date.

Lagan Brick says the prevailing economic circumstances and the continued downturn in the construction sector has left them with no option but to close the facility in Kingscourt.

The fire was still burning in the barrel courtesy of the generosity of business people in Kingscourt. the men have also managed to secure a caravan where they can make some hot refreshments.

They are amazed at the generosity of the locals who had brought food, drink and heaters and they have even been given donations, according to Stephen Burns.

“People driving along the road are also stopping to leave in tins of biscuits and other items.”

They were even offered a generator by a man they never met before. “We are getting wonderful support from the people. The people know we are getting a raw deal and they are behind us all the way,” he said.

One of the shop stewards at the plant, Gerry Clarke, toldThe Anglo-Celtthat he never thought he would see this day happening.

“We have families to support and we have to stand up for ourselves. I never thought I would see men sitting out here on Christmas morning having their dinner away from their loved ones,” said Mr Clarke.

He toldThe Anglo-Celtthat they are prepared to stay outside the plant for as long as it takes to get what they deem a fair severance deal. “We could still be here on St Patrick’s day for our dinner. There will be nothing allowed in or out of this plant until this is sorted.”

Many of the men said this bleak Christmas scenario was in stark contrast to other years when a percentage of the men worked on the kiln on Christmas day.

One of those men Pat Carolan said he worked many a Christmas day and Christmas eve on the kiln. “This is the thanks I am getting for it now and I have worked here for 43 years.”

Emmet Carolan said he has just completed 25 years at Lagan Brick. “This all comes as a very big shock to me – my three young children were looking forward to Santa Claus this morning. We were supposed to be off to other relatives today. My wife had to go on ahead, while I stay here. This is the worst Christmas I have ever had in my life. Like the others, I am prepared to stay here as long as it takes.”

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