Lanesboro business owner and community activist, Joe O’Brien, told the Leader that although people knew the move by ESB to close their power stations was inevitable, there was a general feeling of shock among locals at how early it has happened.
He told the Leader, “Everybody knew this day was coming, but we didn’t expect the announcement to come as quickly as it did.
“While we felt that 2020 may have been an option, we thought that the ESB may have pushed for a longer term before they left.”
Local Cllr Gerald Farrell said the news earlier today was ‘tough’ to accept , describing it as 'terrible news for workers and their families'. He also said the transition fund allocated in the recent budget is ‘not enough’.
“The Government has given a transition fund of 31 million in the recent budget but it is not enough and they must give priority to the Midlands again in the 2020 budget.
“As a local representative I will be pushing the Government on this issue and I will also be pushing for a community fund for Lanesboro and surrounding areas after the closure.
"We in Lanesboro are in the process of setting up a taskforce through the Town Team to discuss the future of the area post BNM and Lough Ree power. I have already invited both Minister Humphreys and Minister Bruton to Lanesboro.
"It is imperative that we make this a focus as elected representatives in Longford to get new investment in this area." he concluded.
Local Joe O’Brien agreed with Cllr Farrell’s sentiments that the funds allocated were simply not enough. Mr O’Brien noted that the transition fund was allocated for all midlands counties and when that is divided up, it wouldn’t equate to near enough.
He stated, “It is not in any way shape or form large enough to create for this area and Shannonbridge.”
He said, “When you divide it up, it becomes a very small amount of money.”
Continuing he said, “I think the figure should be a lot more than that, but hopefully it will be when projects are put forward,”
The local man says the announcement of the just transition fund and the appointment of a commissioner has done little to appease locals and workers in the area.
He said of the Transition fund, “It was election money, but it wasn’t near good enough to satisfy the demands of people who are looking to be progressive.”
Joe pointed to the Think Tank held locally in recent weeks, which was first proposed as a way to deal with the recent layoffs at Bord na Móna and issues at Lough Ree Power, as a positive note with potential solutions for the community in light of the news.
He said, “We want to be proactive. We have a lot of good ideas that we are sifting through now and are going to be bringing forward.
“Hopefully we will get government backing for these ideas and that money, be it transition money or any other money, will be forthcoming.
“We see this general area as being a pilot area for ideas, development and once it happens here it can be replicated throughout the country.”
The team behind the Think Tank feel Lanesboro could be turned into a jobs hub in the heart of Longford. This, Joe feels, would also help stop the exodus of young people from the area in search of employment.
“It would bring employment back to the area, fill the schools, and bring communities back to life again.” He stated.
“That can only be great for our community. The last thing we need is an unemployment black spot in the area, when we have so much potential to have something so good.”
Mr O’Brien agreed with suggestions the ESB €6billion investment plan announced recently lacks clarity and said it all seems like a ‘rushed job’. He then called for a Minister Bruton to come down to Lanesboro to assess the situation first hand and meet with local collaborations group.
He stated, “We need them to show support to us, but we don’t seem to be getting any support.
“We want to be positive and create a positive environment for people.
“I want to see every community thrive, it is not all about Lanesboro it is about all of the communities around.”