The midlands must not be allowed to become a “rust belt” like the American midwest following the closure of power plants in Longford, Offaly and the decision to end peat production, a Fine Gael Senator has said.*
Michael Carrigy also appealed to the Government to allow the production of sufficient peat for domestic use in the horticulture industry. He said that “in the absence of peat from Irish sources, the industry will have to import it”. There have been separate warnings that two shiploads a week of substitute peat are already being imported every week.
Mr Carrigy said in the Seanad that closure of the ESB power stations in Lanesboro, Co Longford, and Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and the ending of peat production at Bord na Móna’s Mountdillon bog, had had a huge impact on families who had worked there in the past 50 years.
He welcomed the “substantial funding” announced last year for several projects under the just transition fund on climate action.
The Longford Senator also called for action on suggestions he received in a letter from 12-year-old Michael Gacquin who asked “why don’t we put our industrial heritage museum in the power station? You could put the old tractors and machines that were specially made for the bog into it.”
The 12-year-old also suggested train rides on the peat trains as a much-needed tourist attraction.
Ireland has approximately 50 per cent of all raised bogs remaining in the Atlantic region of northwest Europe and €108 million has been allocated for Bord na Móna’s peatlands restoration project. This aims to protect the storage of 100 million tonnes of CO2 and is set to create more than 300 jobs as part of Ireland’s efforts to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Minister of State for Agriculture Pippa Hackett said that whether it was “Longford, Offaly, Kildare or any area with such a wealth of potential in their peatlands, we have to look at them all”.
*This article was amended on March 2nd 2021 to correct an error