Moneypoint: ‘It’s all about making sure that west Clare stays alive’

A local business owner in west Clare has highlighted this week how when she was growing up in the area people were “very conscious” of the fact that Moneypoint Power Station was a big driver of economic growth.

Rita McNerney owns and runs the convenience store in Doonbeg, which is just a few miles from Moneypoint.

She was speaking to AgriLand in the aftermath of a decision taken by ESB on July 8, last, to realign operations and resources with a new lower running regime at the power station.

The company pointed out that due to market pressures, carbon prices and increases in renewable energy, the power station was running far less than previously and there was, therefore, a need to introduce the lower running regime.

The move has led to the loss of 100 jobs at the plant and concerns among locals that the only coal-burning facility in Ireland will close it doors for the last time in the coming months.

Growth and development

McNerney, meanwhile, pointed to growth in the locality and how numerous businesses “sprung up” in the 1980s and 1990s “when Moneypoint was going very strong”.

There were pubs and shops – that was down to the massive amounts of people that were employed at Moneypoint.

She continued: “Students got jobs there during the summer months – there was six week overhauls and, in fact, I remember one summer in particular where there were three overhauls.

“Students would have their money made during those times and they could go back to college secure in the knowledge that they had a few pounds to support themselves.”

From boom to bust

McNerney also pointed to the influx of people that arrived in west Clare because of the plentifulness of jobs at the plant.

I have a lot of friends now that came to this area as kids from Wexford and Carlow because their fathers got jobs at Moneypoint.

She added: “Those people have become real assets to the communities in which they live.

“In west Clare, at the moment, we have a shortage of people – we simply do not have enough people to keep some of our communities alive.

“We are all aware that 2025 was coming down the line and the end of burning coal at Moneypoint but people around here were still hopeful that the situation would work itself out.

Moneypoint Power Station, Co. Clare

“There are a lot of people living in Doonbeg that work in Moneypoint – all those that are involved in the contracting side of things have been let go.”

Securing jobs

Meanwhile, in west Clare, Moneypoint Power Station and Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland are the two largest employers in the region.

McNerney pointed out that while a number of the workers that were let go from Moneypoint last month secured seasonal employment at the golf club, the move is only temporary with the financial impact still to emerge.

“Some of them did get work at the local golf course but come October, when there is no work at the club, those guys and their families are going to feel it – so will the businesses around here,” she continued.

In terms of economic development around this area it’s all about Moneypoint and Doonbeg golf club.

“It’s about making sure that west Clare stays alive – it’s about making sure that people stay here and communities continue to grow as a result of that.”

Where the future lies

So, in terms of the future, what ideas do people in the area have when it comes to sustainably and long-term employment at the Moneypoint site?

McNerney says plenty of ideas have been brought to the fore in recent times.

This, she adds, “has been very heartening”.

There are a lot of ideas about what could be done at the Moneypoint site going forward.

She continued: “It will be about sustainability and perhaps converting the site into a more carbon-friendly industry.

“It is going to take time for the conversion to happen and the reality is that we need to start planning for that now.

The port at Moneypoint Power Station outside Kilrush, Co. Clare

“There has been talk about biomass, carbon capture for coal, gas, etc, but wind energy is probably something that needs to be explored a lot more closely.

“From that end something would need to be piloted and then we could all see for ourselves whether or not that would be a sustainable way forward.”

She also pointed to the very well-established port at Moneypoint.

The port at Moneypoint is a huge asset in itself – it has the capacity to carry the biggest ships in the world – and that is very positive because there are many ports that can’t hold them.

She continued: “There is no doubt but there are opportunities here for trans-shipment from Moneypoint to other parts of Europe because of Brexit.

“It seems to me that urban centres are endeavouring to take all the resources they can from the west of Ireland – and this is one of the difficulties we are facing.

“If you look at the River Shannon at the moment there are efforts being made to take water from it and pump it to Dublin. That is estimated – at the moment – to cost €2 billion but will probably run into a lot more money if and when it does happen.

The entrance to Moneypoint Power Station in west Clare

“There is no support for Shannon Airport from the Irish Government, yet the EU wants it to stay open because it has the longest runway in western Europe, and can therefore be used as an emergency landing facility.

“And now Moneypoint is being closed down – only to be used if and when it’s needed. I would see Moneypoint as being valuable not just to west Clare but to the entire western region in this country.”