The publication of the Just Transition commissioner report has been welcomed by Denis Naughten – but the independent TD warned that “real action” needs to be seen on the delivery of measures within communities across the region now.

“Every time we hear of Just Transition we are always one more announcement away from action,” deputy Naughten said.

“We cannot accept a situation where we must wait for Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted or the next budget cycle; we just don’t have the luxury of time.

We must see action now because there are 260 families dependent on a peat harvest this summer. And sadly, there is no guarantee that peat harvesting will be allowed pending the very complex planning process that Bord na Móna must go through.

The TD for Roscommon-Galway stressed the need to “immediately start intensive bog rehabilitation” on decommissioned Bord na Móna bogs, adding that the €11 million in the Just Transition Fund needs to be allocated to “shovel-ready projects that can create jobs now – not in 10 years’ time”.

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“While everybody across Ireland is understandably concerned about businesses being closed as a result of Covid-19, we 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,” he said.

“My fear is that this issue, while a priority before Christmas, will be pushed under the carpet after the Covid-19 crisis.

While there is much work to be done to plan for our future economy after the current health emergency, much of the planning should have been completed on the Bord na Móna job situation and we now need to see practical action.

“There is no reason why mentoring support and advice cannot be provided remotely to those who want to start a new business,” the TD said.

He noted that skills analysis, career advice and some retraining can also be done remotely, adding that this “needs to happen now not in November”.

“The learning from this could then be adapted to support workers across the wider economy who may be facing the prospect of not returning to work.

The current Covid-19 restrictions cannot be used as an excuse to do nothing.

“The present situation is serious, and we need to see leadership from both Bord na Móna and the Government on this vital issue,” concluded deputy Naughten.