Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowen has said that a Sustainable Transition Forum should be established to support the Midlands economy if, as expected, Bord na Móna continues with its plan to make in excess of 300 employees redundant this week.
Deputy Cowen was speaking ahead of the expected announcement of major job losses across Bord na Móna’s peat business.
“The Government cannot just leave this region and in particular these communities on its own after such an announcement.
“I have personally written to An Taoiseach requesting his support in the establishment of such a forum. The Government cannot wash their hands of this devastating blow; they must support the workers and the local economy.
“Additionally, I have written to EU Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, and other Commissioners, seeking a meeting at their earliest convenience to discuss how the EU fund can support, workers, their families and contribute towards enterprise and innovation fund in affected region.
“Fianna Fáil believes that a Sustainable Transition Forum is desperately needed to alleviate the impact of the job losses, and to plan and prepare the local economy to make the transition to other forms of enterprise on old Bord na Móna bogs.
“Such a forum would comprise representatives from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Bord na Móna, the ESB, the existing workforce, the local authorities, public representatives, Enterprise Ireland and research facilities.
“A primary objective must be to secure funding from both carbon taxes collected and from the European Union to alleviate the problems associated with transitioning to a low carbon business model and economy.
“I firmly believe that any transition will only work if there is buy-in and support from the communities directly affected. The forum must agree collectively on the future use of lands and properties, in addition to exploring potential diversification measures.
“Finally, we need an enterprise and innovation fund to help realise the potential for alternative job creation in the region. The workforce in situ at present are incredibly talented and skilled; we must find ways of using these skills to keep quality employment in the Midlands,” concluded Cowen.