Lough Ree Power Plant in Lanesboro.
The expectant loss of hundreds of jobs in Longford and Offaly brought about by the closure of two ESB power stations could be offset by the establishment of a national heritage peatlands centre.
They are the proposals being put forward by Fine Gael general election candidate Cllr Micheal Carrigy and Offaly based TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.
The pair this week called on their government colleagues to explore the possibility of creating a National Peatlands Park in an effort to safeguard jobs ahead of the closures of power stations in Lanesboro, Co Longford and Shannonbridge in Offaly.
“Creating a unique visitor centre in the Midlands region including a visitor’s centre, historical exhibits and walkways would help bring the history of the region to life as well as breathing new life into the tourism sector in the area,” said Cllr Carrigy.
The incumbent Longford County Council Cathaoirleach has long advocated for the need to establish alternative industries to support those workers likely to be affected by the closures.
“We must have a just transition here in the Midlands and this will only come about if we pursue every possible means of creating new opportunities and stimulating jobs growth,” he added.
“There are prime locations available across the region for a National Peatlands Park.
“Here in Longford we have seen investment in a number of important tourism projects recently including Centreparcs and the funding of the Norman Heritage Park in Granard.
“The value to an area from such attractions is multifaceted and we should be doing all we can to ensure that we are maximising all of the opportunities we have locally.”
Efforts to push for plans to create a national heritage centre come hot on the heels of Longford County Council's own moves to create a food hub in Lanesboro.
County Council bosses from both Longford and Roscommon have already held a series of meetings in recent weeks to fast-track efforts to safeguard employment along the county boundary following the ESB’s decision in November to cease its operations in both Longford and Offaly.
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.