Longford Leader editorial: 2020 a big year for government's Just Transition talk

Lanesboro power station closure should not be excuse for Bord na Móna to force through compulsory Longford layoffs

Less talk and more action is needed from the Government's well documented 'Just Transition' Fund

Much has been made of the State’s Just Transition fund aimed at safeguarding hundreds of jobs as Bord na Móna presses ahead with its plans to wind down peat energy usage by 2028.

Last week, it was announced the Government has sought EU approval to allow it use the monies raised from the PSO levy charged on electricity bills for projects in the Midlands and the Peatland Restoration and Rehabilitation Scheme. This would raise €80 million over four years.

And while talk of such a sum possibly winging its way to these shores is not to be sneezed at, there are plenty of question marks still hanging over just how the Government intends addressing our carbon emission dilemma.

At the height of that puzzle is the fact the man tasked with driving the State’s green offensive still has no contract and no agreed budget.

Former head of of the Workplace Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey was installed as Just Transition Commissioner by Environment Minister Richard Bruton almost two months ago.

Following the announcement back in November by the ESB that the West Offaly and Lough Ree power stations at Shannonbridge, and Lanesboro, respectively, would cease to function from the end of 2020, a number of so-called ‘stabilising measures’ were introduced.

Among them included a proposed €5m bog rehabilitation programme and a contribution of €5m by the ESB to the Just Transition Fund established in the budget, an investment which was described as “miniscule” by Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council Micheál Carrigy.

It’s believed that in the region of just under 100 jobs will be lost in the closures, with a further 1,000 Bord na Móna workers also likely to be indirectly impacted. Had such losses been facing Dublin, there would be a national emergency.

The midlands and Longford demands more. More importantly, the hundreds of Bord na Móna workers, many of whom have given decades of faithful and wholehearted service deserve more.

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