A group of senior Government ministers is to visit the midlands on Monday to meet people affected by last week's decision by the ESB to close two peat-burning power stations in the region.
Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton will be accompanied by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Kevin Moran.
Mr Bruton will tour a rehabilitated bog following the Government’s commitment to a significant programme of bog restoration under its Just Transition plans for the midlands.
Ministers will meet Bord na Móna and ESB workers affected by the closure of power stations in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and Lanesboro, Co Longford. Mr Bruton will also meet union representatives and Oireachtas members.
Jobs and re-training opportunities were at the heart of the Government’s transition plan with 400 direct and indirect jobs being created to retrofit homes in the midlands, Mr Bruton will say, with up to 100 jobs in restoring boglands.
Bord na Móna would be creating 100 new direct jobs and more than 150 indirect jobs by developing renewable energy assets by 2023. An additional 100 new jobs would be created in new recycling operations and potentially up to 300 jobs in green business projects.
The delegation wanted “to listen to those affected and to see first-hand the new, sustainable opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy will open up”, Mr Bruton said in advance of the visit.
The transition fund for the region now totalled €11 million to support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses to adjust to the low-carbon transition.
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts to ensure that new business is generated to replace the jobs that will be lost and to prepare the workforce for the opportunities that lie ahead,” Mr Donohoe will say. Meeting the climate challenge “will be impossible without difficult decisions and trade-offs but we will do it with the supports in place to ensure a just transition to a safer, cleaner and more environmentally conscious future”.
The closures were welcomed by environmental lobby group An Taisce, which also accepted the impact on the region would be significant. "This is most welcome in reducing Irish greenhouse gas emissions and abandoning the unsustainable import of biomass," its advocacy officer Ian Lumley said.
Acknowledging the major employment loss he said it needed "a just transition response, for which European Investment Bank Funding can and should be rapidly mobilised".
He added: “The development of these peat plants was a wasted State company investment which should never have happened. On top of this the electricity consumer was shackled with a public service obligation annual subsidy amounting to hundreds of millions over the lifetime of the plants.”