Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action & Environment Timmy Dooley TD has called on the government to immediately establish a National Just Transition Task Force to develop a strategy with stakeholders and communities to secure employment and develop decarbonisation opportunities in the Midlands.

The call comes following today’s announcement that plans for the redevelopment of Shannonbridge power station have been turned down by An Bord Pleanala. This raises concerns about the future of Bord na Móna and ESB employees and also follows job loss announcements at the Lanesboro peat-fired plant and Moneypoint power station earlier this month.

“The Government has been aware for years that the phase out of peat-burning and removal of subsidies would impact the West Offaly Power Station. However, Fine Gael’s response has been completely negligent. Minister Bruton is deliberately disengaging and putting this challenge at the door of the ESB and Bord na Móna. Today’s decision is a clear indication that Fine Gael must not renege on its responsibility to assist workers and the wider communities which are being severely affected”, said Deputy Dooley.

“In response to the recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly that peat workers’ rights be protected, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action stressed the need for social dialogue through the creation of a National Just Transition Task Force. Fine Gael supported the establishment of this Task Force this year, but it is absent from Minister Bruton’s new Climate Plan.

“Minister Bruton has claimed that NESC research, ESB assessments and regional strategies will be effective, but this is simply not the case. Peat workers and impacted communities need immediate government intervention and structured dialogue, backed up by EU just transition funding. We cannot let the Midlands become the rust-belt of Ireland.

“The government cannot be allowed to wash its hands of this challenge. It must establish a task force to directly manage the just transition and engage with all stakeholders on necessary re-skilling and community supports”, concluded Deputy Dooley.