O’Neill’s considers relocation as plan for Brexit 

Kieran Kennedy, managing director at O’Neill’s.

STRABANE sportswear giant O’Neill’s is looking at the possibility of relocating part of its manufacturing process to Lifford in preparation for Brexit, a meeting has heard. 

Speaking at the ‘Is your Business Brexit Ready?’ seminar at the Fir Trees Hotel, managing director of O’Neill’s Keiran Kennedy said a five-acre site in Lifford had been identified in preparation for Brexit. 

“In the event of border tariffs and duties we have the option to buy a five acre site in Lifford,” he said. “We aren’t saying we are going relocate, but at least we have a plan if something happens.”

With O’Neill’s products crossing between the border up to eight times during the manufacturing process, Mr Kennedy said potential border tariffs of 9 per-cent has prompted the firm to consider their options.

“There would be major costs involved in terms of rebuilding, but we need to look and see what the cost of tariffs would mean for us,” he said. “The alternative would be build a 250,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Lifford. We are lucky our staff could commute no problem. It’s a Plan B and we hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Mr Kennedy also said Brexit has had a negative impact on staff living in the south, with reported wage drops of up to 20 percent due to the devaluation of the Sterling since the referendum in 2016. 

Other key speakers at the event included Brexit advisor Mark Sterritt from Intertrade Ireland. He felt it was essential businesses make plans now. 

“No-one has been able to avoid Brexit and it won’t get easier,” he said. “While it doesn’t have to be all a business thinks about, it is essential to make plans.” 

Asking for a show of hands from the audience a total of three individuals said they had made provision for Brexit. This appeared to be in keeping with Sterritt’s statistic that only 8 per-cent of businesses in the North had considered the impact departure from the EU would have.

“It is important that more businesses plan, act and engage with Brexit,” he warned. “With just over a year until Brexit comes into force, the time is now. At the end of the day, if people were warned about the Credit Crunch or a BSE a year in advance, they would have taken action. Now is no different.

“Businesses in doubt about Brexit should contact Intertrade Ireland as soon as possible, and avail of £2,000 towards professional advice in relation to Brexit matters,” he added.


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