Fighting ‘the good fight’ for Bord na Móna workers in Co. Longford

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice has called on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, to highlight to Bord na Móna “the important role” it has in rural Ireland.

Fitzmaurice was speaking after the protest in Lanesboro on Monday evening, July 22, where over 300 people including Bord na Móna employees, their families and members of the south Longford community walked in unity and solidarity through the main street of a town where the semi-state body has been a fixture for over 60 years.

Fitzmaurice then pointed to the level of support that was evident – during proceedings – for the workers and added: “Fair play to the workers, fair play to your families and fair play to the community for the way in which it has come out here this evening in support of Bord na Móna workers”.

A year ago we sat down with Bord na Móna and we were shown lovely glossy magazines indicating where the company was going and all about Just Transition.

He continued: “This evening proves the unjust transition that is going on; we were told that Bord na Móna was going to look for 450 redundancies but after that there was a clear path – a clear path for the workers out there until 2025 to 2027 – but unfortunately that path must have gotten cracked on the way.”

Focusing on the future

Fitzmaurice went on to say that he alongside other local politicians held discussions with ESB last week and discovered – down the line – there was going to be no guarantees for tonnage and that, in fact, there would be no guarantees for 2021, 2022 and onwards.

When we sat down with Bord na Móna we told them we would would try and help them to try and make sure that they had a clear future.

He continued: “In fairness to the unions they have gone and put a path forward on the amount of work that needs to be done, but Bord na Móna is closing its eyes to giving its workers an income.

“What the head of Bord na Móna mightn’t realise and what the head of ESB mightn’t realise is that 150 jobs in rural Ireland are the same as 3,000 or 4,000 jobs in Dublin.

Over 300 people took part in the protest against job loses at Bord na Móna

“The media will tell you that peat is dirty but for me people come first – it doesn’t matter what they bring in on those trains, people in rural areas do matter, must matter and must be kept in employment into the future.”

‘Rural people matter’

The Independent TD for Roscommon/Galway also pointed to the importance of employment in rural Ireland when it comes to local economies.

It is the people employed locally that keeps the butcher or the small shop going in a town like Lanesboro.

He continued: “It is these people that keep a community going in rural Ireland – we have a way of life here and we will not surrender our people to what Dublin wants to do.

“We are going to continue the fight and over the coming days it is up to us as politicians to put the pressure on where it matters.

The protest gets underway at the bridge in Lanesboro

“Minister Bruton needs to bring Bord na Móna in and explain to that company what it means to an area such as this and to rural Ireland.

“He then has to make sure that the jobs are protected and I will actually look to recall the Dáil if this matter is not sorted in the coming days.”

The beginning of the end

Meanwhile, two weeks ago Bord na Móna announced that – as a direct result of the shutdown of the local power station – it was being forced into making a decision to lay off a large number of workers including 78 seasonal workers and 72 permanent staff.

The station, meanwhile, was closed on Friday, July 5, by ESB after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated legal proceedings.

At the time, the EPA deemed the temperature of the cooling water – being discharged from the facility into the river – to be too high.

Last week, Bord na Móna let its seasonal workers go while late on Friday evening it announced that the 72 permanent employees would face lay-off at some stage this week.