Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has expressed her shock and disappointment at the decision of Bord na Móna to suspend all peat harvesting and commence work on its Enhanced Peatland Rehabilitation Scheme (EPRS).

Nolan was speaking after the announcement was made by Bord na Móna chief executive, Tom Donnellan, on Tuesday afternoon.

“This decision will come as a significant shock to many people in the midlands, and in Laois and Offaly in particular,” she said.

“I have written to the chief executive of Bord na Móna to seek clarity on the time-frame of this suspension of peat harvesting, and whether the suspension will be permanent or temporary.

”I have also asked Tom Donnellan to clearly outline Bord na Móna’s reasons for not appealing the decision.

The question I’m calling on Minister Bruton and the incoming government to answer is: Why is this government accelerating the job losses and not intervening in this debacle which is putting so many livelihoods and jobs at risk in the midlands?

“Is it that they are already pandering to the green agenda, which most of us are concerned about in rural Ireland?”

‘Surprised and alarmed’

Nolan added that she was “surprised and somewhat alarmed” to hear that Minister Bruton, in response to the decision by Bord na Móna, has stated that work is only “now underway” with respect to drawing up a territorial plan for the region, which is the first step in securing new EU Just Transition funding.

“Accessing this funding was something I specifically raised with him in August of last year when he assured me that the midlands region had been included in the platform.

“He has also known, since November 2019, that Bord na Móna had announced plans for an accelerated exit from peat harvesting activities in line with its Brown to Green strategy.

‘What has the minister been doing since then?’

“What have the minister and his department been doing since then? Why is it only now, when the announcement that all peat harvesting is to end, that the minister is saying is work is ‘underway’?

“I will certainly be seeking answers to those questions from Minister Bruton,” she said.

I accept that for Bord na Móna the objective is to transform thousands of hectares of peat harvesting bogs into new areas of biodiversity and natural beauty across the midlands of Ireland. But as the old saying goes, ‘you cannot eat the scenery’.

“Workers need work and solid employment prospects. They need to be fully supported with more than just vague aspirations.

“At the moment however my thoughts are with all those workers and their families who are genuinely stunned at the speed and suddenness of this announcement,” Nolan concluded.