For Open University geography students who studied the case study of the uniqueness of Killala in the 1980s, the story was told in the context of the arrival of the multi-national-owned Asahi factory, which brought a new type of economy to the area. The dangers of reliance on a single large-scale employer were readily recognised at the time. The dependency of the community on Asahi had replaced dependency on landlords, while there had been a shift from historical dependency on England into dependency towards the East, on Japanese industrialism and European markets.
The world economy has evolved considerably in the past thirty years while Irish government economic policy has also changed. In 2015 new types of industry and employment are now influencing the creation of a new economic layer at Killala involving, among other activities, knowledge and information-technology-based industry, biomass energy and the production of bulk containers. All these developments are located on the former site used by Asahi showing how a previous ‘layer’ of uniqueness in a place interacts with and creates the possibilities for the next layer and the creation of a new uniqueness with further and different interdependencies.
As you read about the use of the former Asahi site in 2015, identify the different interdependencies, within Ireland and worldwide, which can be seen here.
In 2015 some of the buildings of the former Spinning plant of the Asahi site were the location of a recycling and waste management firm, a hand forged ironwork business and Schutz Ireland, a branch of the multinational SCHÜTZ Selters, Germany, which manufactures Intermediate Bulk Containers for the food, drink , pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
Tawnaghmore electric power station, operated by SSE Ireland, opened in 2003. It is situated at the top of the former Asahi site and its website identifies ‘Its principle function is to help maintain security of electricity supply in Ireland’s all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) by being available to operate on quick response to peaks in national energy demand’.
In July 2015 a new layer of uniqueness was in the process of being constructed on the former Asahi site. On 7 June Mayo Renewable Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Weichert Enterprise (through its subsidiary Rockland Holding Company) had announced that construction would begin shortly on a €180 million biomass power station the largest of its kind in the country, at Killala on part of the Asahi site. This would ‘act as a model for other communities throughout Ireland and Europe'.
The Killala News announced that the construction firm Sisk, was to employ 350 people during the two year construction phase.
Introduction of fibre-optics
In April 2015, Killala’s story once again reached the front page of the Irish Times, when plans for a $300 million high-speed fibre-optic cable linking New York to Ireland’s Western seaboard, and landing at Tawnaghmore, Killala (beside the former Asahi site), were confirmed. On August 14 2015 RTE news showed the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, joining investor Chris Bake of Aqua Comms to mark the $300 million transatlantic cable being brought ashore at Killala. The cable is 5,475km long and according to RTE has the capacity to handle up to one third of the world's telephone calls. It can cover the entire internet traffic of Europe and the USA and will enable 53.8 millisecond transfer speeds across the Atlantic when it goes live in early 2016.The new digital infrastructure is expected to create a significant number of jobs and business opportunities in the Western region. Whereas in the 1970s Killala and the West of Ireland was seen as ‘remote’ from developments in Europe this time the location of Killala had the advantage of being ‘near’ the industrial centres of the East coast of the USA.
Within the increasingly-digitised economy, high-quality internet infrastructure is necessary for business, and the limitations of broadband access in rural Ireland has been heavily criticised. Killala and the West of Ireland more generally are set for an economic boost with the provision of this key infrastructure for data centres and cloud computing investments. Indeed, the Mayo News suggested that Killala could become ‘County Mayo’s Silicon Valley’.
Demolition of the Asahi plant
In July 2015 all the buildings of the former Asahi Synthetic fibre plant on one side of the site, except for the head office of Asahi which was to be used by Sisk as their headquarters, were in the process of being demolished. A new entrance, new access road and new reservoir were being constructed for the biomass power station and the terminal for the fibre optic cable.
Now move on to read 2015: A new uniqueness for Killala.
See all the articles in this series
See all the series in the Change in the West of Ireland collection
This article is part of a collection on the 'Uniqueness, Interdependence, Uneven Development and Change in the West of Ireland'. To find out more about the collection, a good place to start is the introduction, Change in the West of Ireland.