The mid-west region of Ireland was rocked by the news on Wednesday that Element Six, formerly known as De Beers Industrial Diamonds, is to let 370 people go from its manufacturing and distribution plant in Shannon before the end of 2009.

The company blamed the high costs of production and lack of competitive edge for the decision to cut so many jobs.

"The decision is the result of a comprehensive strategic review of Element Six’s global manufacturing operations to improve cost competitiveness and secure the Group’s long-term future," said the company on its website.

"The Shannon operation is the highest cost manufacturing site in the Element Six Group. Despite a series of cost reduction programs in the past few years, continued production at the Shannon site is no longer sustainable or viable, and the primary business it serves is loss-making.

"The current economic downturn has simply served to exacerbate these challenges. This is a highly regrettable decision for Element Six and a number of alternatives were considered at length."

80 people will remain in employment at Element Six at its Shannon site, and the manufacturing and distributing division will be relocated to other Element Six locations.