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Dublin: 5°C Friday 14 May 2021

'It's a relief for workers': US sanctions against Limerick company set to be lifted

Democrats failed in the Senate to block the lifting of sanctions against the Russian-owned Aughinish Alumina.

Chuck Schumer was among the Democrats seeking to block the lifting of sanctions
Chuck Schumer was among the Democrats seeking to block the lifting of sanctions
Image: Chris Kleponis/PA Images

THERE WAS GOOD news for the hundreds of employees at Limerick manufacturing firm Aughinish Alumina last night, after the US Senate voted against blocking the lifting of sanctions against its Russian parent company.

The US had previously imposed sanctions on companies it said was linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripraska. Included on this list was manufacturing giant Rusal, the parent company of Aughinish Alumina.

The Limerick-based company employs over 400 staff and also supports hundreds of indirect jobs in the area. Irish officials had been lobbying US officials to lift the sanctions which affected the firm since last April.

In December, the US Treasury said it would lift the sanctions, with Rusal agreeing to reduce the stake in it owned by Deripraska.

Democrats, however, attempted to block the lifting of these sanctions in the Senate yesterday. They needed 60 votes and, despite the support of 11 Republicans, but only got 57.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the agreement didn’t relinquish enough of Deripaska’s control and questioned whether Trump’s administration was doing Russia’s bidding.

“For a very long time the Republican Party predicated its foreign policy on taking a tougher line against Russia and Putin,” Schumer said on the Senate floor before the vote.

In so many campaigns for president, we Democrats were accused of not being tough enough on the Russians. … It seems that acquiescence to the president, a fear of breaking with the president, has held back too many of my Republican colleagues from supporting this resolution.

Despite the consternation of Democrats, the expected easing of sanctions that will now follow has been hailed as good news here in Ireland as it protects employees of Aughinish Alumina.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said: “We respect different views in US on sanctions, but our focus has always been on protecting jobs and livelihoods in Ireland and EU.”

Fine Gael TD Tom Neville called it a “relief for management and workers” at the company. 

With reporting from the Associated Press

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Sean Murray

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