Cowen says government are overseeing the demise of the Midlands
Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowen, has criticised the Government’s "lack of urgency" to assist the Midlands and the families affected by the Bord na Móna closures.
Deputy Cowen was commenting as it was revealed that more than 600 employees have applied for the voluntary redundancy scheme and that work will be suspended on four more bogs resulting in a further 50 job losses.
Deputy Cowen explained: “Bord na Móna now intends to cease peat harvesting completely by 2025 - five years ahead of its previously announced deadline of 2030. Work is now suspended in Lemanaghan, Blackriver, Ballydermot and Druman."
"This is in addition to the 17 closed at the time of the original announcement last October and means that many more employees will be made redundant or displaced if relocated to another site."
Deputy Cowen said, “The speed at which this is happening is completely disproportionate to any investment in the region and the midlands will be left behind. It is very hard to listen to Fine Gael politicians lauding European funding which the Government dragged their heels on applying for and still haven’t managed to get."
“Councillor Eamon Dooley and I travelled to the European Commission back in November to meet with officials and discuss the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund which we knew would be pivotal for the region."
“To hear the Minister say he is waiting for reports to be completed is disingenuous and deeply frustrating. It’s been six months since the redundancies were announced and from day one anyone with any connection to communities in this area would have known that additional investment was needed to counter the impact of the closures," Cowen said.
"While I acknowledge the work of Offaly County Council in establishing a transition forum to co-ordinate a response to workforce displacement, this alone is not enough to mitigate the negative impact of the loss of the industry. The existing carbon tax, which only serves to prop up the Governments balance sheet, is not reinvested into the areas impacted hardest on by decarbonisation."
“The transition to a low carbon economy must be inclusive and fair for all citizens. Any future carbon tax increases must be ring-fenced to help areas that may rely on fossil fuel-related employment, as well as those at risk of fuel poverty. The Government should be ensuring there are viable alternatives for the region before the closure of the main employment industry. Instead they appear content with shutting up shop and turning out the lights on the midlands,” concluded Deputy Cowen.
Deputy Cowen is set to raise the Bord na Mona issue in the Dáil on Wednesday.