Fears over fate of Bord na Mona workers at factory in Offaly

Karen O'Grady

Reporter:

Karen O'Grady

Fears over fate of Bord na Mona workers in Derrinlough

Derrinlough factory. Pic: Karen O'Grady

Fears have been expressed ovover fate of Bord na Mona workers at factory in Offaly

Workers employed at the Derrinlough plant expressed worry and concern about their future, despite assurances from the company that production will continue until 2024.

Derrinlough was constructed in 1959 and for over sixty years, bales of briquettes have rolled off the production line at the factory. In three years, these conveyor belts will come to a permanent halt as the company exits the peat energy business in part of a national movement to lower carbon emissions.

But before the plant shuts its door, the country has seen the arrival of alternative imported briquettes from abroad to the shelves of our stores and forecourts and this has angered the workers in the Derrinlough factory.

It prompted employees, Michael Henry, Noel Flynn and Paul Doorley to take to the national airwaves and speak to RTE midlands correspondent, Ciaran Mullooley on 'Morning Ireland' recently.

Speaking last week, they said: “It was wrong to see another country profiting from this when we can be making this here ourselves. We made 140,000 tonnes of briquettes last year and we sold 140,000 tonnes of briquettes last year. Why do we need German briquettes, I don't know.”

Continuing, they said they were going about importing briquettes from Germany, Estonia and all over Europe and leaving a “bigger carbon footprint than what we are doing here”. “It begs to differ and do they really know what they are doing,” they continued.

Concluding, they said that Ireland and in particular the Midlands was “having to pay the price for everyone else”. “They want to clear the bogs here just for a big carbon sink that we are going to store. We are going to store other people's carbon here and we are going to leave people out of work here,” they added.

The trio later raised concerns that time was running out for the Derrinlough plant. According to them, they were told they would be going until 2030 but that has halved very quickly.

“Now, they are not producing peat on bogs anymore. So, when are they going to pull the pin on the briquette factory? Nobody knows. There's huge uncertainty and then there are no jobs in the midlands. It's very bleak at the moment. There's not a whole load going on around us at the moment. They are not fighting back. It's time we fought back to keep our jobs and keep our fuel and heating.”

In a statement issued to the Tribune, a spokesperson for Bord na Mona stated the company's production and supply of peat briquettes are meeting current demand, which is running in line with expectations for this time of the year.

However, they pointed out there have been increases in the operational, logistics and blending costs associated with accessing the remaining available peat stocks from the bogs, along with “significant increases” in the cost of carbon credits and labour”.

“These additional costs and the new carbon tax increase (announced in Budget 2021) are reflected in the revised pricing. As previously stated, Bord na Móna will continue to manufacture peat briquettes well into 2024. Until then, our clear focus will be on investing in and developing a wider range of sustainable home heating products for our customers who look to us to supply them with quality Irish solid fuel products.”

“Retailers have always made their own decisions regarding where they source solid fuel products from. Bord na Móna will continue to offer a range of high-quality solid fuel products to its customers in this market.”