Local authority chiefs are formalising plans to offset the anticipated loss of hundreds of jobs at ESB and Bord na Móna with a Lanesboro based food hub.
County Council bosses from both Longford and Roscommon have held a series of meetings in recent weeks to fast-track efforts to safeguard employment along the county boundary following the ESB’s decision last month to announce its decision to close both Shannonbridge and Lanesboro facilities.
It’s hoped the new hub, will lay the foundations for alternative sources of employment for workers affected by the closure as well as the likely knock on effects to hundreds of jobs at peat processing giant Bord na Mona.
“Longford County Council has been very active in the area and we have worked in collaboration with Bord na Mona to develop a business plan for a food hub in Lanesboro and that work has been in place since May,” said CEO of Longford County Council Paddy Mahon.
His comments came at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council where local politicians were also told of how hopes remained high of a “positive outcome” over a funding application being made to the State’s Regional Development Fund (REDF).
Mr Mahon added cross agency talks involving officials from both regeneration units in Longford and Roscommon County Councils had held talks also with a view to establishing a dedicated “action plan” for Lanesboro.
“The food hub will support transition from brown to green, provide food stand facilities for new incubation units and other food processing initiatives and it will, if successful, provide employment opportunities in the area,” said Mr Mahon.
It’s also hoped a meeting with Mr Mahon, his counterpart in Roscommon Eugene Cummins and Department of Climate Action Secretary General Mark Griffin over the coming weeks.
News of the inroads both local authorities had made towards appeasing affected workers and their families attracted widespread support from onlooking local politicians.
Cllr Mark Casey said talk of a potential food hub had “a lot of the boxes” he and others had been campaigning for.
However, he stressed the importance of ensuring €6m in monies from the Government’s so-called ‘Just Transition’ fund were ring-fenced solely for “ground zero” households and in parishes worst affected by the crisis.
Fine Gael’s Ger Farrell followed suit, adding it was imperative all relevant statutory bodies followed through on the proposals.
“It was a huge blow to us all to get that news but the proactive way in which you have approached things since is very much welcomed,” he said.
“It’s very important that Lanesboro and surrounding areas are prioritised for large funding streams that will create employment in the area.”
His party colleague and Cathaoirleach Cllr Micheal Carrigy was more cutting in his criticism of ESB chiefs and the fallout from last month’s closure announcement.
He termed the semi-State’s offer of donating €5m to the Just Transition Fund as “miniscule”, insisting the body should be pressed into providing any shortfalls which may come as a result of the closures.