Lay-offs will 'likely remain in place' says Bord na Mona

Bord Pleanala decision opens way for peat harvesting this season

Gearoid Keegan

Reporter:

Gearoid Keegan

Lay-offs will 'likely remain in place' says Bord na Mona

Bord na Mona will harvest peat on its bogs this year

BORD na Mona has said the temporary lay-off of employees “will likely remain in place” even though An Bord Pleanala has made a decision which will lead to a resumption of peat harvesting.

The company confirmed its applications for leave to apply for substituted consent have been granted by An Bord Pleanála (ABP).

Bord na Mona had been prevented from harvesting peat this season as a result of a High Court ruling in September 2019 which struck down the peat regulations enacted in January of last year.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, Bord na Mona said the decision by ABP relates to the harvesting of peat on bogs over 30 hectares and helps sustain peat supply to Derrinlough briquette factory, the horticulture business and meet the reduced peat requirement for Edenderry power station.

The decision also allows Bord na Móna to commence the formal substitute consent application process and to begin pre-harvesting preparations.

“The scale of the collapse in energy demand caused by the health crisis means that many of the recent Covid-19 mitigation measures, including the temporary release of employees, will likely remain in place. The company will however review the implications of the ABP announcement to assess the new operational requirements for peat operations. The company will be communicating the full implications of this decision to employees in the coming days and weeks,” the statement said.

Bord na Mona previously announced its intention to lay off 230 permanent and seasonal workers in its energy division because the ESB's two peat-fired stations, Shannonbridge and Lanesboro, are switched off, and there has been a 40% reduction in the amount of peat needed at its own electricity station, Edenderry Power.

In a letter to energy division staff on April 27, company chief executive Tom Donnellan said electricity demand is down 10% because of Covid-19 and “brown electricity” generated by peat cannot compete with lower gas and oil prices.

Reacting to the Bord Pleanala decision, Offaly Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen said it was the first break in a while for the company and its workforce “which allows for immediate product for Shannonbridge, Lanesboro, Edenderry and briquette factory”.

Deputy Cowen said it is imperative that the report and recommendations from Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey are published and considered in the context of programme for government negotiations.

The Fianna Fail TD also said that while any limited supply of peat to Shannonbridge and |Lanesboro for the rest of 2020 is now dependent on electricity demand improving and price competition between peat and oil and gas, Bord na Mona at least won't “be constrained” by failure to secure a harvesting license.

He said the decision was “no game changer” in the long-term and the region's viability and prospects depend on the State committing to special status, supports and initiatives arising from Mr Mulvey's recommendations as part of the transition programme.

Also commenting this morning, Carol Nolan, Independent TD for Offaly, referred to the “positive decision” reached by ABP.

“This is some relief for Bord na Mona workers and contractors involved in the harvesting of peat,” said Deputy Nolan.