The firm boycotted the Limerick plant over its links to Russia as ministers tried to protect it

Aughinish Alumina’s Shannon plant was boycotted by Irish suppliers over its links to a Russian oligarch even as the government sought to protect it from sanctions.

he managing director of a company in south Dublin has refused to send a service team to install new hygiene units in protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even though it would have meant significant extras for our small business”.

In an email sent to the office of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the managing director, whose name is redacted but was described as “a member of Fine Gael” by officials, asked why the factory remained open. “Are we putting Irish jobs and interests above the murder and genocide of children, mothers? asked the general manager.

The email was sent on March 7 just as Mr Varadkar, who is also Minister of Enterprise, was in contact with his counterpart in the French government amid reports that sanctions against Aughinish Alumina at Limerick would increase the cost of aluminum in Europe.

The email was included in the Ministry of Enterprise’s archives on the government’s efforts to circumvent European Union sanctions against Russia and keep Aughinish Alumina operational, protecting Europe’s aluminum supply and the 460 jobs directly employed at the refinery.

The Shannon plant is linked to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has been described as Vladimir Putin’s favorite industrialist. Mr. Deripaska holds an interest in Aughinish Alumina. The oligarch was the majority shareholder of EN+, owner of Rusal, which in turn owns Aughinish Alumina.

The boycotting Irish company Aughinish said in correspondence: ‘Our company does not have a direct contractual relationship with Aughinish, but we supply hygiene consumables through our facilities client.

“Last week we refused to send a service team to Rusal Limerick to install new units, which would have meant significant extra business for our small business, as a sub-contractor,” the e-mail reads. mail. “We couldn’t accept it even though it put us in a tense position with our installation company client.

“We are still indirectly supplying basic hygiene products through them to enable Irish workers to operate in this factory in a hygienic environment.”

The email added: “I would expect the government to have a clear, unambiguous and morally defensible position, particularly as a current member of the United Nations Security Council.”

It was forwarded to the Tánaiste’s office via Dún Laoghaire Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

The government said at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that it wanted to keep Aughinish Alumina open and operational. The plant is Europe’s largest alumina refinery, producing around 30% of the EU’s alumina, which is used for aluminum in cars and aircraft.

The plant’s operations were thrown into doubt when Mr Deripaska’s name appeared on an EU-sanctioned list of Russians in April, in response to atrocities against civilians in Bucha, Ukraine.

As well as meeting directly with factory officials, it has emerged that the Tánaiste has also met his conservative counterpart Greg Barker, former chairman of Mr Deripaska’s EN+ company, who is said to have brought together non-Russian investors to take over the company. factory.

Freedom of Information records suggest Mr Varadkar had several contacts with French government ministers about the future of the plant.

Mr. Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe spoke with Bruno Le Maire, France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, on March 21, the same day as the meeting with Mr. Barker.

A note from the call said Mr Le Maire had raised France’s concerns over ‘the maintenance of Aughinish and France’s operations and supply chains’ and ‘noted’ some pressure from countries Eastern Europe to sanction Mr. Deripaska. It was agreed that the ministers would keep in touch and also dialogue with their Swedish colleagues.

A briefing note prepared for the minister ahead of one of the phone calls highlighted Aughinish Alumina’s exports to France and its production of 30% alumina in Western Europe.

“Any reduction in its activity will lead to an immediate increase in the price of aluminum in Europe and disrupt global supply chains,” the note warns.

The Department has refused to release numerous briefing notes for the Tánaiste, either for “security, defense and international relations” reasons or because, it said, the information was obtained in a manner confidential or were commercially sensitive.

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