Minister to visit Midlands as Greens call for 'more than just a pay-out'
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, will visit the Midlands next week after ESB announced the closure of two power stations in Shannonbridge and Lough Ree.
Responding to the news, Minister Bruton said: "The government has been working for months to ensure that we fulfil the promise in the Climate Action Plan to deliver a just transition for workers and for regions. I am acutely aware of the impact today's decision will have on workers and the Midlands region more broadly.
"We are bringing forward a no of initiatives as part of our Just Transition Plan. We prioritised just transition in the recent Budget, incl a number of measures which Kieran Mulvey, in his role as Just Transition Commissioner will now co-ordinate.
"The Government are committed to securing long-term, sustainable employment for the Midlands At the heart of the just transition must be job creation and re-training. It must be about creating opportunities for the region for decades to come and to supporting workers.
Addressing the broader issue of transition, he added: "Getting out of peat early will have a significant impact on our emissions - at least 1.25 million tonnes of carbon saved each year and emissions down by up to 9 million tonnes up to 2027. We must manage this is in a way that ensures the Midlands is supported through the transition
"Budget 2020 included a number of measures which will be included in the response 1) Just Transition Fund, which ESB are today contributing to, bringing it to €11m; €5m for bog restoration; €20m for a new model to group housing upgrades together.
"We will create 400 jobs through a plan to upgrade Midlands homes, starting with social homes in the Midlands, and up to 100 jobs through a bog rehabilitation programme led by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
"200 jobs for Bord Na Móna employees transitioning from peat-related operations to be included in the enhanced peatland rehabilitation programme," he continued.
"Almost 100 new direct jobs and over 150 indirect jobs are to be created by Bord Na Móna in the development of renewable energy assets and new recycling operations.
"We have also been engaging with the European Commission to put in place an extensive Bord na Móna bog rehabilitation programme, funded through a re-purposed Public Service Obligation. The programme will rehabilitate 77,000 hectares of bogs to a high standard.
"Engagement on the proposed scheme has been underway with the European Commission and this will continue to be pursued as a matter of priority."
Minister for Justice and Laois TD Charlie Flanagan said: “Today’s announcement presents a real challenge for the midlands. I welcome the appointment of Kieran Mulvey as Just Transition Commissioner. I remain in daily contact with Minister Richard Bruton, regarding what is the greatest transformation for the midlands area.
"The Minister is coming to the area early next week to meet with workers and community representatives.
"The Government is resolutely committed to driving the Just & Fair Transition programme to protect jobs and livelihoods & improve the economic and social wellbeing of the Midlands," he concluded.
Offaly Green Party Senator Pippa Hackett warned the government that better planning is needed to help communities impacted.
“Everyone knows that we need to stop burning peat – it is one of the highest carbon emissions of any fuel source. So why are we only now worrying about the impact on the workers and communities?
“Today is a devastating day for these workers and their families. We welcome the fact that they hope to avoid compulsory redundancies and that a Just Transition Commissioner has been appointed but providing a Just Transition means more than just moving people or giving a pay-out," she added.
"It needs to be about supporting the community where it is and giving people a future there. That’s why we need a permanent Just Transition Commission looking for and working with communities that are facing a change and building alternatives where they are.
“It’s all well and good having a Just Transition fund, but we really need to know precisely how these monies will be spent, what kind of training will be provided, and what jobs will be created in this region to secure future for these workers.”