Last Of Ireland’s Historic Potato Mines To Close


TODAY Bord Bia signalled the end of an industry that has dominated the life and culture of the province of Munster for most of the 20th century by announcing the closure of the potato mine near Ardmore in County Waterford.

Management has decided that the last deep mine and the 60 workers it employs has outlived its usefulness. What once was a thriving industry that propelled its surrounding areas to economic prosperity has become a depressing cliché for those who work and live nearby.

Peadar Ó Shúilleabháin, National Union of Potato Mineworkers’ secretary at the mine, will attempt to persuade 60 members at a meeting on Wednesday that it is worth fighting for the future of the pit through the industry’s colliery review procedure.

In all, there will be more than 100 redundancies in a severely depressed area which relies on the potatoes for much of its income. Mr Ó Shúilleabháin said: ‘I will have to think very seriously about this offer. I’m a married man with twelve children. But I think it will take more than €3,000 and all the potatoes I can carry for me to sell out my principles. We just need to remind people the importance of the potato industry in this country for us to get back on our feet.”

The potato mines were originally established following the Great Famine as a way to ensure that something on that scale never happened again.

In the 1930s there were more than 180,000 miners in 800 mines across Munster, but by the early 1990s this figure had slumped to 10,000. This reason for this massive drop has been attributed to a number of factors, such as the emergence of foreign foods like pizza, fajitas and, curry which are imported from mines in Italy, Mexico and India.

The closure decision was announced by Edmund Foley, Bord Bia’s director of operations. He told the men that operations were no longer justified because of declining demand of potatoes amongst the younger generation.

Mr Hindmarsh added: “The sad truth is that while the colliery has recorded a relatively good performance operationally in the last 12 months, it still averages 40 deaths a year. There must be an easier way to get potatoes.”