‘The loss of 124 jobs in Littleton is akin to the loss of up to 4,000 jobs in Dublin’

The closure of Bord na Mona’s plant in Littleton, Co. Tipperary, will have repercussions for the entire community, according to local Fianna Fail councillor Sean Ryan.

Speaking on this week’s episode of FarmLand, Sean explained that the closure of the plant will have a “catastrophic effect” on the area.

It was revealed on May 4, 2017, that the plant in Littleton would close in March of this year – resulting in the loss of 124 jobs.

The loss of Bord na Mona has been an absolutely massive blow to this area and I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that the loss of 124 jobs here is akin to the loss of 3,000 or 4,000 jobs in Dublin.

“That’s the economic scale we are talking about, because Bord na Mona has been a huge part of the social and economic fabric of the Littleton area and the wider district for so, so long,” he said.

Family connection

The Littleton plant was first founded in the mid-1940s and Sean outlined that his grandfather was the first employee.

“He was the very first employee of Bord na Mona – clock number one. He started here in 1946 at the old plant and then he moved over to this plant in the mid-1970s. He worked on the weighbridge and he worked there for a number of years.

“My uncle is also one of the 124 who lost their jobs this year.

I suppose we have had a connection right from the very start with the plant; many first cousins of ours and cousins of my father worked here as well – so a huge connection.

“We’re no different to any other family in this area; every family had some relative that has worked here,” he added.

Plant closure

Continuing, the local councillor explained that, following a report which looked at Bord na Mona’s peat operations in both Derrinlough, Co. Offaly, and Littleton, Co. Tipperary, it emerged that one of the plants would have to close.

One of the main reasons reportedly given for the decision was the lack of demand for briquettes resulting from the introduction of the carbon tax.

On May 4, 2017, the decision to close the plant in Littleton was revealed.

To be honest, we really didn’t know what was happening and neither did the workers. I stood at the gates with media outlets and other local politicians to see what the result was going to be.

“It wasn’t until the press release was released at 4:00pm on May 4, 2017, that we knew this plant was going to close. We saw the interim report and we knew that Bord na Mona was going to undergo a lot of rationalisation – but we never dreamed it was going to be this plant,” Sean said.

Aftermath

At the moment, there are 16 people working at the site in Littleton decommissioning the plant and rehabilitating the bogs so that Bord na Mona meets the terms of its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licence.

It is believed that these workers will be kept on at the Littleton site until the latter end of next year and then the plant will close completely.

Ryan stated that a taskforce has been set up between the county council, Bord na Mona management and the council executive.

We’re trying to see what is going to happen here for the future. Bord na Mona is telling us that it is actively trying to sell the plant here and trying to market it for another industry.

“So we’re hopeful that it will succeed on that. We’re also looking at the lands here, because you have a vast array of lands. Obviously, Bord na Mona will be trying to put a number of caretaker agreements in place with some landowners.

“It will be trying to develop, we hope, a feasibility study to see if there is a possibility of running a greenway on the old rail track and various other walks.

“What we are trying to do is look at activities that will bring economic value to the area. We have seen, for example, what the greenway has done for Kilmacthomas in Co. Waterford and how it has revitalised the whole west Waterford region.

“Maybe something like that could be done here that would develop this area as well. We’re also actively working with Bord na Mona to try and get some alternative industry into this plant and give this area the economic boost that it needs,” he said.

The local councillor also noted that Bord na Mona is putting together a plan to make sure that the boglands are rehabilitated properly.

Future

Ryan is hopeful that new industry can be secured in the Littleton area to bring jobs to the area.

He believes that if Bord na Mona were to open a museum, Littleton would have to be considered for that purpose – given that some of the machinery and old carriages remain on site.

Acknowledging that Bord na Mona is now trying to diversify its base, Ryan rues the fact that this could have been done sooner.

The Fianna Fail councillor hopes that the “outside the box” economic thinking, which brought Bord na Mona to Littleton decades ago, will be utilised again to establish a new industry in the area.

Most of us are realistic enough to know that we probably won’t ever get an industry that will give 124 straight jobs here again. But we would be hopeful that we would get some form of industry that will provide even 40 or 50 jobs. It would bring such a boost to the area.

“I hope Bord na Mona is successful in trying to market its plant and develop an alternative industry here,” Ryan concluded.

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