The loss of 315 jobs at Teva Pharmaceuticals in Waterford is a devastating loss for the South East region.

It is now vital that all relevant agencies act in support of the remaining division of TEVA, which will continue in Waterford, which had long been considered an exemplary employer in our city.

The latest lay-offs are a further blow to a region that has seen its Live Register figures increase by 22,995 to 55,229 over the past 12 months.

From January 2009 to date, the South East has had 6,265 redundancies, with Waterford recording the highest number in the region at 1,718, followed by Tipperary (1,452), Wexford (1,426), Kilkenny (1,098) and Carlow (571).

Mayor of Waterford John Halligan’s impassioned call for the establishment of a taskforce to be established, similar to that set up in Limerick when Dell announced its closure, must be supported.

Only last week, this newspaper called for a taskforce to get something going here in terms of a plan for both the food and tourism industries.

Ex-Kerry Group boss Denis Brosnan carried out a strategic plan for Limerick, something which is now desperately needed in Waterford.

Just as the University of Limerick has established itself as a strategic think-tank for the mid-west region, WIT could well further assert its credentials for university status by fulfilling such a role in the south east, a point made last week by Senator Paudie Coffey.

It is now clear that tablet manufacture is under threat in Ireland, following the Teva announcement and the closure of the Aventis plant on the industrial estate beforehand. Quite how this outgoing tide can be stemmed is a question that is now taxing Waterford’s business community.

The loss of manufacturing industry in Waterford this year alone has been phenomenal – given the closures and jobs losses recorded at Waterford Crystal, ABB and Bausch & Lomb.

The south east is clearly one of the hardest hit areas in Ireland’s economic downturn given our dependency on manufacturing.

In contrast, Limerick and Cork received decentralised government departments (i.e. CSO and Tax).

While promises were made for Waterford with the Department of Education supposedly earmarked, the economic downturn means it may be quite some time before any such development take place.

With no help in sight from Dublin, it’s time that Waterford best and brightest got things moving ourselves – getting glass manufacturing moving again would be a decent start.

A possible KPS sale of Waterford Crystal may open up new possibilities – production could be put under contract to small producers by the brand owners.

That glass making skills, practically unique to Waterford are not being harnessed, is shameful. That the Government has failed to act and avail of the technical expertise which drew over 300,000 visitors annually to Kilbarry, is equally shameful.

The time has come to push for a strategic plan for the region, one free of political considerations we would stress. A strong, respected and influential figure from the region who could put together a good plan is what we now need – someone like former City Manager Eddie Breen, for example.

As reflected by many following last Friday’s announcement, other cities and towns in the country have received prompt assistance. Why we in Waterford have been, to quote Mayor Halligan “abandoned” by the powers that be is beyond our comprehension.

For a region that relies on traditional manufacturing for a significant portion of its economic activity, the latest Live Register figures, coupled with the Teva announcement, highlight the severity of the situation the South East is now facing.