Midlands in danger of becoming Ireland's 'rust belt' - TD warns
A local TD has said Bord na Mona needs investment to stop the Midlands becoming Ireland's rust belt.
The statement comes after Bord na Mona today confirmed a raft of redundancies under their latest strategy. The company will shed over 400 jobs through voluntary redundancies over the next decade with 150 to go before next Easter.
Sinn Fein TD and Laois-Offaly candidate at the next General Election, Brian Stanley said, “Today’s announcement of job losses at Bord na Móna is bad news for the Midlands, but these workers cannot simply be set aside as we move away from peat. The Government and the company need to quickly develop alternative jobs."
"I met with the new CEO of Bord na Móna Mr Tom Donnellan last week and outlined to him that it is now absolutely essential that the company establish alternatives, not only to keep jobs but to create new jobs in Laois, Offaly and the Midlands."
“We know Bord na Móna are facing huge challenges with the use of peat to generate electricity being halved by 2020. The power plants at Edenderry and Shannonbridge will move quite quickly from peat to biomass. Also with the Cúl na Mona plant in Portlaoise, 80% of its horticulture peat moss product currently goes to Britain, where retail companies are demanding peat free compost within the next 2 years. Overall peat volumes are expected to fall by about one third during next year."
“A revolutionary change is now needed at Bord na Móna. With the switch from peat as a source of energy and raw material for compost, there is huge potential in other indigenous sources that will offer long term sustainable employment in the Midlands. These include the growing of biomass crops and wood products, renewable gas, solar, biogas and the use of biodegradable waste for compost."
“The CEO outlined some of their plans in terms of the future of Bord na Móna in Laois/Offaly and said they are in the process of developing their energy business and other alternatives such as waste recovery/reuse and recycling."
Significant investment is now needed to kick start these new industries and make changes in the existing ones. To fund this, the Midlands need to receive a significant slice of the €500m climate fund that the Government has earmarked in the National Development Plan. The funding currently going to subsidise peat burning will also need to be rediverted and EU funding can to be sourced to retrain and upskill workers," Brian remarked.
“Action is now needed from Government and the new management team at Bord na Mona to ensure the Midlands does not become Ireland's rust belt," he concluded.