Local Ministers and Oireachtas members have pledged their support for ex-Bord na Móna staff, who have submitted a Just Transition Fund application to the Department of Climate Change in the hopes of creating new employment for the 80 workers who recently lost their jobs.
The small group of Bord na Móna workers, past and present, from the Mountdillon works in Longford and Roscommon submitted the application to the Just Transition Fund in conjunction with the new Lough Ree Outdoor Recreation project in Lanesboro to create new jobs for workers.
“In the last few weeks we met with and got great support from the local political representatives - especially Ministers of State Peter Burke and Robert Troy, TDs Joe Flaherty, Sorcha Clarke, Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice, Claire Kerrane, Senators Micheál Carrigy and Eugene Murphy,” a spokesperson for the group explained.
“They all said we had a great project. We have planning permission and support funding - now we wait for Eamonn Ryan and the Department of Climate Change to give us the support we need.”
When the group met Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey, to discuss the 80 jobs that were lost in Lanesboro, they were impressed with his understanding of what the group needed next as they said goodbye to peat harvesting and prepared for decarbonisation in the community.
“Mr Mulvey asked us if we had a ‘shovel ready’ project to try and create alternative employment for our local workers and our family in the short to medium - and we told him we had,” the spokesperson explained.
“It’s a social enterprise model that started out as a new outdoor recreation project with a passenger boat two years ago. We wanted to cater for anybody who wanted to come to our beautiful town on the banks of the River Shannon on the Roscommon Longford border and especially the disabled.”
So they did a thorough feasibility study and business plan and bought their first boat and the project evolved from there.
“Roscommon County Council asked us to broaden the appeal and develop the old derelict building as a new Outdoor Recreation Centre on the quayside - to provide a range of additional services and create additional employment,” the spokesperson explained.
“We sought new partners in Waterways Ireland and Inland Fisheries and they both came on board.
“We looked again at our plans and designed a new project - the refurbishment of our centre to the status of a Nearly Zero Energy Building and then we looked again at what was happening much faster than expected in our town - the lay-off of our Bord Na Móna workers five to ten years before anyone had expected.”
At the start of the year Alan Broderick from the Access for all Outdoor recreation project team asked the group to play their part in a partnership with the most important people of all - the members of the Bord na Móna workers retraining and jobs club.
“We spent six months exploring their immediate needs and their hopes for the future. We assessed their skills for the jobs we hoped to create and we consulted all the training agencies,” said the spokesperson.
“We now believe we have a robust business plan - for the post Covid 19 emergency era.
“We are seeking support for not just the capital aid to refurbish our building and buy a new electric boat but retrain the first batch of Bord na Móna workers this September, recruit key personnel before Christmas and start up this new vision.
“We do all of this in the name of a fledgling new not-for-profit company - but with its roots in a community development group with a track record going back over 30 years in one form or another.
“We know our team of volunteers is not perfect . We didn’t have an office or a team of executives to put this application in place but we have a strong and vastly experienced team of people ready now in our project team and we are ready to work with our key partners and advisors to create jobs and ease the transition for local Bord na Móna workers.”
Among those to pledge support to the project was Longford’s Senator Micheál Carrigy who praised the workers for their plan, which will create employment in the area for some of those who recently lost their jobs.
“Having spent some time in Lanesboro and Ballyleague and visited some local businesses, I was afforded the opportunity to meet with the Bord na Móna workers and the project team in relation to their ‘shovel ready’ project to create alternative employment for local workers and families,” said Senator Carrigy.
“The project is a new Outdoor Recreation Centre for Lanesboro and Ballyleague to include a new centre, boat and the retraining of ex Bord na Móna staff to be developed.
“This project will create 15 full time jobs and 20 part-time seasonal jobs for redundant Bord na Móna workers.”
While in Lanesboro, Senator Carrigy also visited Lough Ree Distillery, where he met Peter and Sheila Clancy and discussed their plans to build a visitor centre.
“These would be fantastic additions to these areas and I fully support both these projects and would hope that Longford and Ballyleague will get their fair share in the first tranche of funding,” he concluded.