Fianna Fail has called for the establishment of a Sustainable Transition Fund for those who will lose their livelihoods as a result of the closure of 17 bogs by Bord Na Móna.
The party’s Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Timmy Dooley was commenting as Bord na Móna announced the loss of over 850 jobs, mainly in Midland counties, over the next 10 years.
“While the workers employed by Bord na Móna directly will be offered redundancy or offered new roles in the company, there are 1700 people employed indirectly by Bord na Móna. These 1700 people and their families will not have the benefit of a redundancy package or the option of moving into another Bord na Móna business.
“Fianna Fáil accepts that the closure of these bogs is a necessary, but painful, component of meeting our climate change targets. However, we are deeply concerned that there appears to be no plan in place for the hundreds of people who will find themselves out of work as a result.
“Climate change is real, and sticking our heads in the sand is no longer acceptable. It’s no longer something that affects people in far flung locations; it’s having an impact here in Ireland with unusual weather patterns including drought, freak storms and heavier than normal weather.
“Changed weather patterns will impact on Ireland more and more over the coming years. We must do what is necessary to reduce our emissions. We know that burning peat for heat and electricity is having a harmful impact on our environment.
“However, the peat industry has been part and parcel of the economic life of the Midlands for generations. Simply closing down the bogs, without an appropriate transition plan, could result in creating an ‘Irish Rust Belt’ similar to the US Midwest where a poorly planned transition from coal resulted in severe economic stagnation.
“During budget negotiations, Fianna Fáil made it clear that we were ready to accept an increase in the carbon tax if it was accompanied by measures to ensure a fair and equitable transition for communities such as those which have been devastated by today’s announcement.
“Reducing our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels for heat and emergency must take place if we are to meet our climate goals, but it should not come at the expense of local communities. A Sustainable Transition Forum must be established, as a priority, to assist those who will lose their jobs, to provide further education, training and other supports to assist their return to the workforce.
“Fianna Fáil has written to EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, and other Commissioners, seeking a meeting at their earliest convenience to discuss how the EU fund can support workers, their families and contribute towards an enterprise and innovation fund in the affected region. We believe that the Globalisation Adjustment Fund should be deployed to address these challenges.
“Tackling climate change cannot be a one way street. The decarbonisation process must be accompanied by measures which protect the livelihoods of ordinary people,” concluded Dooley.