Up to speed on motor assembly in Ireland
Sir, – I must take issue with John FitzGerald’s comments on car assembly in Ireland (“Timing key as Ireland adjusts to globalisation”, Business, October 20th). It is not the case that “most cars . . . had been assembled in the UK, then taken to pieces and sent to Ireland to be reassembled”.
The assembly industry came about in the Free State at the end of 1933 when Sean Lemass, the minister for industry and commerce, responded to a suggestion from FM Summerfield to create a car assembly industry here that in return for a tax concession would also result in the creation of a network of component suppliers to the newly created industry.
Cars were imported in CKD form – completely knocked down – where the key components were taken from the manufacturing line and shipped to Ireland for assembly. They were not built in the UK and then disassembled for export to Ireland.
As a result of the Lemass/Summerfield initiative, manufacturing of tyres, batteries, glass, springs, spark plugs, upholstery, paint and other components was carried out locally.
It should be remembered that at the time assembly was introduced, the Free State had virtually no light industry manufacturing, yet within six months there were no fewer than 13 assembly plants in operation together with the necessary component suppliers.
In the years that followed before local assembly came to an end in 1984 as a result of our joining the European Community, in the region of 52 different makes of cars had been assembled here.
Cars in CKD form came to Ireland from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Japan and the US.
It’s also worth noting that Australia followed Ireland’s lead almost word for word in 1936 in introducing legislation to establish its own motor assembly industry.
At its peak in the late 1960s there were more than 3,500 people employed in the Irish Motor Assembly industry, not including between 1,500 and 2,000 employed by the component manufacturers.
So, hardly a “incredibly inefficient process”, rather an important stepping stone in Ireland’s manufacturing history. Its full story will be told in my forthcoming book Motor Assembly in Ireland. – Yours, etc, BOB MONTGOMERY, Curator,
Royal Irish Automobile Club Archive, Dawson Street, Dublin 2.