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28 Jun 2022

Opinion: Bring projects to fruition and ensure Lanesboro isn’t forgotten

Lanesboro Power Station. Photo:Joe McDonagh.

Calls for Lanesboro to be prioritised 12 months on from the closure of the ESB's Lough Ree Power Station are refusing to go away

As I write this piece it is exactly one year since the ESB closed the Lough Ree Power Station bringing to an end over 60 years of the creation of electricity in Lanesboro.

There is no doubt, but the closure was hasty in the extreme.

We have spent the past few months hearing about the possibility of power cuts through the winter months which makes you wonder why close while putting nothing in place to maintain the power supply to the country.

For this to happen beggars belief that a Government Department would be so ill prepared for the consequences and to leave homes and businesses facing the threat of power outages.

In the meantime, the station still stands, lying idle and getting more dilapidated as each week passes.

ESB recently announced that they were applying for planning permission for the dismantling of the station.

Their planning will include seeking permission for the demolition and propose the development of a synchronous condenser (Sync Con) and a battery energy storage system (BESS) at Lough Ree Power Station, Lanesboro, Co Longford.

We are led to believe that ESB will be creating a very large number of jobs and that the future for us will be bright.

However, when you scrape away the PR twist on this we can look forward, when the work is completed, to a maximum of 2 to 3 jobs.

We all remember the political promises when the station was closing that our community, our counties and the wider region will not be forgotten.

Judging by the silence since we are definitely long forgotten.

We have been funded with money galore from the Just Transition for Feasibility Studies. There are many wonderful predictions from these studies about how suitable we are for developments in tourism and in the creation of green energy projects.

Both Longford and Roscommon County Councils have also commissioned studies for the Lanesboro and Ballyleague communities that also makes exciting reading.

We seem to appear to be sitting on a goldmine and you wonder what is wrong with me seeing that everything is so bright.

The reticence of ESB, who own the site and their bosses, Minister Eamon Ryan and the Department of Energy to engage with and embrace the work that the studies have proven will work and attract business/industry is amazing.

The tourism studies show tremendous potential, and Lanesboro and Ballyleague and engagement from Minister Catherine Martin and her Department of Tourism is extremely vital.

Both are essential for our community and wider area if we are to retain our young people and give them an option of working in their own community when they complete college. We must stop the brain drain from our area or we will be left with an old community and no future for our midland area.

On a positive note, I have to say that through the Just Transition Fund, the Access for All Boat is employing three people and the Lough Ree Distillery and the Premier Food Hub are currently awaiting funding from the Just Transition Fund.

One of the reasons I write this piece as I do is that the people that are on the local Lanesboro Ballyleague Collaboration Group are people that have their own jobs – some work 6 and 7 days a week. Both councils do as much as they can, but they can only do so much in developing our proposals.

What we need as I am sure our fellow sufferers in Shannonbridge is for one the Government to position a qualified person with the ear of the Ministers and the Government, for at least a three year contract, to take on all what is viable in those projects and bring them to fruition. This appointed person must work from their base in Lanesboro/Ballyleague and have full access to the ESB site and selected sites for developments.

Perhaps I am asking too much but I distinctly remember the words of the politicians we met on the campaign trail during the last election.

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