Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
The issue of a Just Transition for the Midlands and the future of the economy in the region has been raised in the Dáil. Sinn
Fein TD Brian Stanley said: “The transition in the Midlands from brown to green energy was supposed to take place over ten years, but due to the failure to deal with it by successive Governments, workers and communities in the Midlands now have just ten months.
“For years Sinn Féin has called for the Midlands to become the heart of renewable energy production. I welcome the plans put forward by Kieran Mulvey. The Midlands urgently needs an ambitious plan to be put in place and a major stimulus package to reboot the economy.
“I welcome the Commissioner's report but the scale of the transition facing the Midlands deserves a commission on a firmer footing, not a part-time commissioner. There is no new money with the report launched recently. There is only the money that was announced last autumn, and the €5 million from the ESB. That is all welcome but it is not enough. We need to access finance from the European Investment Bank's, the just transition fund and the low carbon innovation fund.
“We need to take advantage of the strategic location of the three Midlands power plants in Lough Ree, West Offaly and Edenderry, and use them as energy hubs. Bord na Móna should continue to operate the Edenderry plant and convert from 42% biomass to 100% biomass.
"The Shannonbridge and Lough Ree plants must be retained in ESB ownership and move to biomass or biogas and, crucially, be used as energy connection points for solar, wind and other sources of energy. They are strategically located on the national grid and those sites need to be retained in Bord na Móna and ESB ownership," he continued.
"As a key company in resource recovery, Bord na Mona, which is already successfully involved in recycling, has the expertise, sites and facilities. It needs to become a major player in this area.
“The €20 million retrofit money is welcome and is a starting point, but it must be part of a larger package. The Mount Lucas construction training centre in Offaly must be designed as the centre of excellence for apprenticeships and training in energy-efficient construction and retrofitting. Good work is being done there currently by the Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board.
"The ESB and Bord na Móna are good, State-owned companies that have put huge money into the economy through income tax, dividends to the State each year and through numerous other sources. The companies have a proven track record of contributing to the local and national economy and they must be supported to be central to this just transition," Deputy Stanley concluded.