Cllr Mick Cahill, Fianna Fáil
Bord na Móna was established to develop communities in the poorer midland areas through creation of employment.
Sustainability of these communities is enabled via a creation of sustainable employment. A changing environment means that sustainable employment must take a different shape or model now.
It must also recognise that the demographic of these communities has changed with time whereby the next generations are better educated than that of their parents and hence have more modern skills that can be deployed in modern businesses.
Their parents, former Bord na Móna employees, now also form a very large proportion of these communities.
Younger community members have had to leave their communities so as to get employment, hence these communities are collapsing and the earlier than planned closure of Bord na Móna operations is accelerating this demise.
Poverty will return to these communities and we will be back to where we started. Can we let this happen and, if not, how can we best address the challenges?
Communities comprise of those currently in employment, those formerly in employment, those waiting to join the workforce as well as local businesses and services. Solutions are required to cater for the needs of all the above categories of people residing in these communities.
Former Bord na Móna employees, otherwise referred to as Pensioners, feel concerned at the early exit from peat as this is seen as a precursor to Bord na Móna ceasing business with renewable business being assigned to another commercial state body or even privatised and the waste management business possibly reverting to the private sector.
Hence the given scenario: who will be the sponsor of the pension schemes and carry responsibility for future liabilities?
This must be addressed in the current Just Transition phase and hence included in the Brief or Term of Reference of the Commissioner.