The world famous visitors’ center of Waterford Crystal shut down today, as 15 remaining workers lost their jobs.
Crowds of people came to bid goodbye to the center, which had hosted 330,000 visitors annually for 25 years. Waterford Crystal once employed almost 3,000 people in factories at Kilbarry and Dungarvan, according to the Irish Times.
The firm had enjoyed success in the 1980s and 1990s. Americans accounted for more than half of its sales, and this market has been diminishing since 2002, when the US dollar’s value dropped chronically compared with the euro. The firm has struggled with crippling debt and went into bankruptcy last year.
The center was for decades one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, as visitors took tours of the factory and purchased the hand-made cut glass items, which the firm had produced since 1948. The mayor of Waterford, John Halligan, said its closure marked “a sad day for Waterford,” the Times reported.
Workers said they were grateful for the support of the local community. Employee of 10 years, Eleanor Horan, said on local radio yesterday: “We are absolutely devastated but people have been fantastic; the support we got from all our locals has been absolutely incredible.”
Nicky Coady, who worked as an engraver at the factory for 44 years, said: “While I’m here I’d like to just thank all the people who came in and shook our hands this week.” Coady blamed the closure on Ireland’s politicians’ failure to act.“If the politicians had come out a bit earlier maybe we wouldn’t be closing here today.”
On the company’s website a brief note is posted: “Welcome to the Home of Crystal. Our Factory Tour is temporarily closed.”