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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019
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Bord na Móna to lay off 150 workers in Longford

Bord na Móna confirmed that 70 permanent employees will be put on temporary unpaid leave.

File photo of turf cutting machinery in action on the Bog of Allen outside Edenderry in County Offaly
File photo of turf cutting machinery in action on the Bog of Allen outside Edenderry in County Offaly
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

BORD NA MÓNA is to lay off 150 workers from next week as a result of the ESB suspending operations of its peat-fired power plant in Lough Ree, Co Longford. 

Bord na Móna confirmed this morning that 70 permanent employees will be put on temporary unpaid leave from next Thursday, and about 70 seasonal employees will be laid off with immediate effect. 

The layoffs come after ESB suspended operation of its peat-fired power plant in Lough Ree, Co Longford, last week.

In a statement last week, the utility said that it had ”sought an amendment to its environmental licence in relation to its cooling water discharge temperature in the river Shannon, which in this regard is of particular relevance during the summer months”.

It was reported yesterday by the Irish Times that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken legal action against the ESB in relation to the temperature of cooling water discharged from the facility.

ESB has said that the facility at Lanesboro will remain off load for an undefined period of time. As the station is not currently running, there is no requirement to supply peat, which has led to Bord na Móna cutting its staff.

In a statement carried in the Longford Leader, a spokesperson for Bord na Móna said that “approximately 70 permanent employees will be put on temporary unpaid lay-off from Thursday, 18 July 2019 and this will continue until LRP (Lough Ree Plant) returns to normal operations”.

79 seasonal employees will also be placed on lay-off immediately. The company will provide regular updates to all employees.

BNM said that it acknowledged “the difficulties and impact that this will have on employees and their families’ and a meeting has been arranged with the Group of Unions for Friday, 12 July to work through this process and review all options”.

It is unfortunate that the company has had to take this course of action and looks forward to a resolution of the issues at the earliest opportunity.

 ESB statement 

In a statement, a spokesperson for ESB said it was required under licence to return cooling Lough Ree Power back into the River Shannon in such a manner so as not to raise the downstream river temperature by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the upstream intake temperature.

They said a new condition imposed by the EPA years after the station was commissioned required the condition to be applied over a smaller cross-section of the river.

While it complied with this condition, there were certain times of the year when low flow of the river meant that sometimes to temperature rose about this limit. The spokesperson said that it tried to identify solutions to the issue, but was unable to do so.

“As a consequence of this particular licencing issue, ESB made the decision on Friday 5 July to suspend operations at Lough Ree Power until such matters are resolved,” the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson said that the ESB had submitted an application to amend the licence to the EPA, looking for a larger plume size where there was scientific evidence to confirm that there were no damaging effects on the environment. 

Leaders’ Questions

The issue was raised today at Leaders’ Questions, with Labour Leader Brendan Howlin stating that a vision for the future of the semi-state company needs to be outlined by the government to ensure no worker is left behind as a result of the government’s climate action plan. 

Coveney said around 148 staff have been put on protected notice, and that will continue until ESB resumes operations at Lough Ree. 

“While these job losses were unexpected, further job losses across the Irish fuel industry are sure to come in the future. Within Bord Na Móna alone we know there are plans for future bog closures and as a result peat harvesting will be winding down across the company. 

“We know that as the economy is moving away from a dependency on traditional fossil fuels, there is an onus on the government to protect workers in this industry. A just transition to a green economy means the safeguarding of workers with proper compensation packages and opportunities for retraining,” said Howlin. 

Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy as well as Independent TD Denis Naughten called for the bosses of ESB and Bord Na Móna to be “hauled” in to the minister’s office to ensure the ESB plant is reopened quickly. 

The Tánaiste said the government is working to re-deploy and re-train workers, with plans of diversification being developed. He said 50 jobs had recently been created with Bord Na Móna opening a recycling plant. 

Bord na Móna has said that it plans to completely end peat energy usage by 2028. TheJournal.ie reported in May that Bord Na Móna has met with Minister of State for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development Sean Canney and Health Minister Health Minister Simon Harris about Ireland taking on the responsibility of growing Ireland’s medicinal cannabis supply. 

With reporting by Christina Finn 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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