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Ministers to hold talks with Midlands ESB workers over peat plant closures

The closure of the two plants was announced last Friday.

The ESB peat burning station in Shannonbridge in Offaly
The ESB peat burning station in Shannonbridge in Offaly
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THREE GOVERNMENT MINISTERS will meet today with the workers of two peat-burning ESB plants which are set to close in the Midlands next year.

Ministers Richard Bruton, Paschal Donohoe and Josepha Madigan will meet with Bord na Móna and ESB workers in Offaly and Longford to discuss the government’s so-called ‘Just Transition’ plan for the region.

They will also be joined by junior minister and Longford-Westmeath TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.

It follows the announcement on Friday that ESB management will close the plants at Shannonbridge and Lanesboro after the government opted to end the harvesting of peat in the region.

The ESB had sought planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for the Offaly power station to transition from peat to biomass over a number of years, but the company’s application was rejected. 

The decision to close the plants is expected to affect up to 80 jobs in the area, while a further 1,000 Bord na Móna workers who rely on the plants will also be potentially impacted.

Today’s talks are expected to focus on the creation of new jobs in retrofitting homes, the rehabilitation of bogs and in other areas.

The Government recently announced the creation of a €6m ‘Just Transition’ fund for the midlands, and ESB has announced that it will add €5m to this, bringing the total fund to €11m.

The funding will support re-training and re-skilling initiatives for workers and assist local communities and businesses in the area to adjust to low-carbon transition, and it is also hoped the plan will create hundreds of jobs to replace those that are lost.

The government visit will begin when Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton takes a tour of a rehabilitated bog this morning.

Last week, he announced that the government has been engaging with the European Commission to put in place an extensive Bord na Móna bog rehabilitation programme

“We are here… to listen to those affected and to see first-hand the new, sustainable opportunities that the transition to a low-carbon economy will open up,” he said ahead of his visit.

The Ministers will then meet with workers affected from both plants, while Bruton will also meet with union representatives and Oireachtas members.

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said the government acknowledged the impact of last week’s announcement, adding that the government should make an effort to ensure new business was created in the area.

“Government will support the midland communities who will be affected by the low-carbon transition at every step of this journey,” he said.

“Climate change is without doubt the defining challenge of our generation.

“Meeting this challenge will be impossible without difficult decisions and trade-offs but we will do it with the supports in place to ensure a Just Transition to a safer, cleaner and more environmentally conscious future.”

However, Independent TD and former Climate Action and Environment minister Denis Naughten told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that those in the Midlands would not be ready for the closure of the plants next year.

“We’re talking about a substantial impact on the local economy with a very very short window to try to put alternatives in place, which will be challenging,” he said.

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