Locals wary of future as Bord na Móna signals end to peat harvesting

Lanesboro Power Station. Photo:Joe McDonagh.
Last week’s announcement from Bord na Móna concerning its decision to phase out peat harvesting by 2030 has garnered an anxious reaction locally.

Last week’s announcement from Bord na Móna concerning its decision to phase out peat harvesting by 2030 has garnered an anxious reaction locally.

The company says it wants to transform itself into an alternative energy company, centred on biomass, wind and solar power.

As a consequence, around 125,000 acres of bogland, some of which is in Co Longford, will be taken over by willow plantations feeding biomass fuel to ESB power stations that currently burn peat.

Speaking at the launch CEO of Bord na Mona Mike Quinn said: Very excitingly, as we manage the energy peat transition our ecologists will ramp up the mammoth task of rehabilitating tens of thousands of acres of bogs. “

Despite its claim the transition will lead to the “biggest change of land use in Irish modern history”, locals are not so sure.

“If it impacts on jobs I don’t believe it will be a good thing,” said Barry Cox as he spoke to the Leader on Lanesboro’s Main Street last Friday.

“As for renewable energy, fantastic hopefully ,but of course it’s a blow for the area. It’s got to be a blow for the area. Bord na Móna has put so many people here through college and kept so many farms on the go.

“There isn’t a house in the area that hasn’t at one stage or another relied on Bord na Móna.

Former Bord na Móna employee Willie Kelly was another to speak out.

Browsing through the town’s indoor country market, he said the announcement represented a blow to the wider area.

“Of course it’s bad news,” he confided.

“Anything that goes from an area is bad news, it’s as simple as that. If it means creating more employment that’s one thing but if it means people losing their jobs that’s not good.

“I worked there (Bord na Móna) eight years in all. There was no employment around here at all (then). I started in 1950 and I tell you I had money in my pocket that I didn’t have before that.”

Within earshot, local plant enthusiast Geraldine Monaghan could be seen casting a watchful eye over her wide array of eye-catching products.

“I use peat for multi-purpose composting and I need peat all the time but I think it would be a big mistake if they (Bord na Móna) were to finish.

“I buy trailor loads of peat and I make my own compost so I can’t do without that. It’s sad and it’s sad for the area because it is here a long, long time.”

Local woman, Breda O’Loughlin was just as riled.

“When I was in school there was talk that Bord na Móna was closing, it’s going to run out of peat and that was 25 years ago and all of a sudden now it is slowly coming to a head,” she said.

A number of other shoppers who stepped foot inside the community centre also spoke worryingly of the proposed plans but declined to go one the record.

One of those who did, told of the potential repercussions for the local economy.

“Supervalu do a great trade down there (from Bord na Móna employees),” said Daniel Hoare as he popped into a local hairdressers.

“There is fellas that go in there and would get rolls and cooked food, so yeah it will have an impact.

“There are people (staff) there a long time and there are people who would go in there (Bord na Móna) just for summer work and they live off that for college.”