Green Party motion aims to prevent Midlands becoming ‘Ireland’s Rust Belt’

Party says imperative on Government to help workers made redundant

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Green Party will table a Dáil motion this week which it claims will prevent the Midlands becoming “Ireland’s Rust Belt”.

The party’s motion, which will be debated in the Dáíl over two days, centres on the closure of Bord na Móna operations in Offaly, Longford and Tipperary in the coming years, as peat-fired generators are decommissioned.

The motion has arisen from the recent announcement that workers at the Bord na Móna plan in Littleton, Co Tipperary will be made redundant. Many of them are third or fourth generation workers there.

While the Greens support the decommissioning of such fossil-fuel plants, it has argued there is an economic and moral imperative on the Government to seek alternative work and careers for the workers.

The party has said the announcement came as a complete surprise to workers and was a perfect example of how not to manage economic transition.

“The midlands has a proud history of powering our country from our own, nationalised peat resources. The end is coming for fossil fuel employment. However, communities who rely on that employment must not be left behind. Communities cannot be abandoned in the move to a low carbon economy – the transition must be fair and fast,” the party has said in a briefing paper for the motion.

It is proposing a “Just Transition” plan which is based on a similar piece of legislation introduced by Bernie Sanders in the US.

Pointing out that €125 million in subsidies has been paid to the plant, party leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin will argue its plan will use that funding to attract new industry in renewables, peatland restoration and retro-fitting.

“Our plan will focus on those most at risk of job losses first – the peat workers in the midlands, for example. By investing State funds cleverly, multiples of the employment that will be lost as peat-fired power plants are wound down could be created. Creating a ‘Just Transition’ process is pro-environment and pro-jobs, the paper, written by Sinéad Mercier, has argued.

“If the €120 million a year that is currently spent on fossil fuel subsidies was instead diverted into retro-fitting homes across the midlands, 5,000 jobs could be created in industry that benefits people, employment and the planet.

The motion will also argued that when the Bord na Móna plants (as well as the ESB coal-burning power plant at Moneypoint) close, a commission should be set up to retrain the former workers to switch to new careers in alternative energy and retro-fitting.

“Re-directing the PSO levy to galvanise long-term employment in the midlands should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a cost,” the briefing paper has stated.

Ireland is not rich in the resources of the fossil fuel era, but it is rich in those of a 21st century economy. With proper planning and investment, we can ensure that the transition to a low carbon economy leaves no worker behind, and prevent communities that rely on fossil fuel employment from becoming Ireland’s rust belt.”