Disappointment at “lack of engagement” as Bord na Mona to close briquette factory in Offaly

Bord na Móna is to cease the production of briquettes in Derrinlough Tipperary this year. 

According to a report in Offaly Live, the move was “unexpected” as the closure of the facility which at full capacity employs 100 people had been scheduled for the beginning months of 2024. 

Independent TD, Carol Nolan expressed her “deep disappointment” at the closure and  what she called a lack of engagement from Bord na Móna to employees, including her own husband, regarding the future of the company. 

“There is a big vacuum when it comes to information, and there always has been since this whole process of Just Transition began,” said Nolan calling on the government to “step up to the plate” and cater to the needs of those affected. 

Nolan continued, “I am still sceptical of Just Transition because we are hearing about all the jobs that are going to be created, but it’s all pie in the sky, what we need to see are real jobs, and good jobs which can replace the employment opportunities that Bord na Móna and the ESB traditionally provided in rural Offaly,”. 

A spokesperson for the Bord na Móna said “This is part of the company’s wider commitment to cease peat harvesting in 2021, exhaust existing peat stocks for briquette production, and complete its transition from a traditional peat business to a climate solutions company.”

Adding, “Bord na Móna is fully committed to supporting all impacted employees through the transition and is engaging on redeployment and retraining opportunities across the wider businesses.”

Cllr John Carroll called on Bord na Móna to be “open, frank and transparent” about future projections for the company saying that “With the rate at which peat production was being scaled back it was inevitable that the factory would run out of peat to produce the briquettes,” 

Carroll, who is Cathaoirleach of Birr Municipal District, said that as damaged machinery “wasn’t being either repaired or replaced” the earlier closure date was “expected.”

Henry O’Shea, of SIPTU stated that “There is a current round of discussions which started before Christmas and those discussions are ongoing.”

“We have engaged with the company around what the next phase of Bord na Mona’s cessation of all peat production is going to look like.”he said

O’ Shea continued saying “The rumour is that the original plan for the closure of Derrinlough is going to have to be brought forward but how far forward is the question.”

“We’re in discussions at the moment as a follow-up to the current just transition agreement and we are engaging with the company and we are discussing the redeployment of as many employees as possible.” he said

At a recent Dail sitting Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen called on Bord na Móna to honour its obligations towards workers saying he was “conscious of the ongoing talks between management and unions to ensure relocation and training options are agreed.”

He said that “now the opportune time for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to provide new grant aid for new windows and doors, together with boiler alterations, to accommodate hydrotreated vegetable oil and biogas fuels, ensuring a 50% reduction in emissions and a contribution by those households that otherwise would not have this.”

He emphasised that since 1940  Bord na Móna “was gifted lands by many landowners who could not before that derive a livelihood or make a contribution to their communities’ well-being.” 

He added that these lands “ should be made available to the wider community and the commercial sector to allow them to be in a position to come out of this decarbonisation process far better than when they went into it.” 

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