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25 Jan 2022

Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey steps down from role

Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey steps down from role

Kieran Mulvey has now ended his role as Just Transition Commissioner, an important role which created some new jobs in the midlands. However, many believe Just Transition is hugely underperforming.

Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey has stepped down from his role, effective from the end of December, it has been announced.

Mr Mulvey was appointed a couple of years ago by the government to help ease the transition for the people of Offaly and further afield while the peat industry was being wound down to be replaced by more environmentally friendly energy industries.

Director of Services Stephane Duclot told the December meeting of Offaly County Council that Mr Mulvey was now stepping down from his position after two years in the role. A replacement for Mr Mulvey has not been announced.

The Minister for the Environment appointed Mr Mulvey as Just Transition Commissioner in November 2019 with the remit of “engaging with stakeholders in the Midlands region and recommending the essential elements of a just transition.”

The government said the appointment was made in response to the fact that the wider Midlands was the first region in Ireland to experience a concentrated transition away from carbon intensive activities, during which jobs in peat were making way for jobs in renewable energy, bog rehabilitation and other new business opportunities; a process which is still ongoing.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications established a National Just Transition Fund in 2019 to “ensure that workers and the Midlands as a community are fully supported.”

Three progress reports were published by Mr Mulvey over the last couple of years, each report providing an update on the Just Transition programme in the Midlands. The reports were published in May 2020, November 2020 and July 2021, each report giving an update on the implementation of the Just Transition programme across the region.

Throughout the process many of the councillors in Offaly County Council praised Kieran Mulvey for his hard work ethic and his obvious sincerity. However they repeatedly strongly criticised Just Transition for being big in ambition but weak in delivery.

The Councillors have also repeatedly pointed out that Bord na Móna used to employ 8,000 people but there have been thousands of job losses since then, dropping down to about 2,000 employees now. The councillors argue that replacing all those lost jobs will require much more than what Just Transition has so far delivered.

In October the government said it was rolling back on its commitment to set up a statutory office for the role of a Just Transition Commissioner, an office which would have helped workers and communities impacted by industry changes as a result of the climate crisis. The Programme for Government (PfG) had committed to establishing a Just Transition statutory office with appropriate staffing and resources, but this has now been reneged upon.

Minister Eamon Ryan said the focus has now shifted to embedding the Just Transition Programme into an all climate policy instead of a stand-alone statutory commission.

The Social Democrats climate spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore described the government's move as “very disappointing” and “worrying” to be “going back on a promise made under the Programme for Government”.

In 2019, the then Environment Minister Richard Bruton said the commissioner’s job was to be the “person on the ground” who would feed back ideas to the government as part of the just transition plan.

In October a spokesperson said the Department of the Environment is currently working on a plan to set out the supports for regions and activities from the €77 million funding Ireland received under the EU’s Just Transition Fund.

The spokesperson added that Mr Mulvey was appointed as commissioner in November 2019 to “facilitate discussions and engagement with stakeholders – to develop, mobilise and deliver opportunities for the midlands, for both the workers directly affected and the wider community. The Commissioner, through his three progress reports, has made a number of recommendations to help achieve a just transition in the Midlands.” The spokesperson pointed out that these recommendations have been taken forward through a number of strands, including the Just Transition Fund, the Bord na Móna Enhanced Peatlands Rehabilitation Scheme, and the re-configuration of the Midlands Regional Transition Team.

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