Bruton ‘must come clean’ on jobs in the midlands

Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, has been called on to make “a clear statement” on steps he is taking to secure employment for Bord na Móna and ESB workers in the midlands.

Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten – Minister Bruton’s predecessor in the communications, climate action and environment portfolio – argued that these workers are facing the likelihood of not being able to return to work after the Covid-19 pandemic eases.

“The decision by Bord na Móna to lay off 230 staff, following on from the shut down of Lanesboro and Shannonbridge power stations, has huge implications for job retention right across the region and we need to hear from Minister Bruton,” Naughten urged.

I understand that Minister Bruton is already acting on ‘immediate measures’ outlined in a draft report he received from the Just Transition commissioner Kieran Mulvey. But what are these ‘immediate measures’?

“Workers and their families across the midlands need answers from Minister Bruton on what is happening and what has happened in the last two weeks since he received notice of the closure of the West Offaly power plant,” Naughten argued.

The former minister said: “I understand that some of the measures outlined by Mulvey require cross-government support and, if that is the case, this needs to be brought to cabinet as a matter of urgency.”

He stressed that, even after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, many workers in the midlands may not have work to return to.

While everybody across Ireland is understandably concerned about businesses being closed as a result of Covid-19, we now have a situation in the midlands where there may be no work for hundreds of Bord na Móna and ESB staff once the current restrictions are lifted.

Deputy Naughten concluded: “My fear is that this issue, while a priority before Christmas, will be brushed under the carpet after the Covid-19 crisis. The present situation is extremely serious and we need answers now from the minister on this vital issue.”