Fianna Fáil TD Cllr Joe Flaherty
In an impassioned Dáil plea yesterday evening, Deputy Joe Flaherty told Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton that the people of south Longford have given blood, sweat and tears to Bord na Móna and the ESB over 75 years and that this ‘immeasurable contribution’ must be recognised when it comes to the allocation of Just Transition funding.
The Longford/Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD stated; “I grew up in the shadow of the ESB power station in Lanesboro and the broad, majestic Mount Dillon boglands were the backdrop to my youth.
“For 75 years, our community was the cradle of the Irish energy revolution. Now, with the race to decarbonise with bright, new, shiny alternatives, we are unfortunately no longer fashionable.
“We must remember that Bord na Móna led one of the most ambitious house building programmes in this country, building housing estates for its workers right across the midlands.
“Bord na Móna and ESB workers did much more than power this country from the banks of the River Shannon. They built communities and how we go about repaying that commitment will probably define the success or otherwise of the Just Transition fund.
“I have not met a Bord na Móna or ESB worker who does not accept and understand the need for decarbonisation, but they do not want to be afterthoughts in the process as we set about dismantling what has been a core part of our communities.
“We must also get real about the money. Currently, the fund stands at €11 million. When we closed the sugar industry in 2005, a fund of €145 million was provided.
“The Just Transition commissioner, Mr Kieran Mulvey, has said that the fund needs additional financial muscle. It is also imperative that a mechanism is found to compensate Longford County Council for its annual loss of more than €1 million in commercial rates.
“Decisions taken by two semi-state companies and the move towards decarbonisation are set to dismantle 75 years of town, country and community in my county. I welcome Mr. Mulvey's call to replicate the Border region Brexit package which is worth €28 million.
“We need a similar enterprise-led package for the just transition fund area. I would also expect this House to support Mr Mulvey's call to increase the fund next year to €25 million from the carbon tax allocation.
“It behoves me to tell the Minister that the people of south Longford have given blood, sweat and tears to Bord na Móna and the ESB over those 75 years.
“Many local groups, projects, local enterprises and Longford County Council will make robust submissions to the EU Start engagement process next month.
“I appreciate that Mr Mulvey has said there will be a geographical spread criterion when it comes to the allocation of funding, but the process must allow a weighting for the immeasurable contribution of my community to the Irish energy revolution and the now detrimental impact on the community following the sudden dismantling of an entire sector with the flick of a proverbial switch.”