Around 70 Bord na Mona workers in Galway should know within the next six weeks whether they are to lose their jobs as part of the State company’s plan to end peat cutting in almost a quarter of their bogs.
Bord na Mona has announced that it is to begin consultations with unions about a voluntary redundancy scheme, with 150 jobs expected to be lost before Easter next year.
A source in the power and fuel company said they had not yet decided which of the 17 bogs – out of the 62 mainly across the Midlands – would close. Harvesting at the remaining 45 is expected to stop by 2025.
Derryfada in Ballyforan on the Galway/Roscommon border was one of those being considered.
“We have to get into discussions with the unions. There could be a ballpark of 60-70 employees working in Galway. We will have a better idea in the next six weeks,” he told the Connacht Tribune.
“Some of the workers will be retirees or close to retirement age. It has yet to be decided where is the location of those workers affected but the figure of 850 job losses is nowhere near accurate. The reduction is to prepare for the co-firing of our peat stations so we need to cut back production of peat. You’re talking 140/150 workers out of 1,000 working on the bogs.”
Galway-Roscommon Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said those who lose their jobs on the bogs have “as good as zero” prospects of finding other work locally.
“The average age of the employees is 55 and all the stats tell you it’s nearly impossible for that age group to get another job,” he stated.
“A lot of these lads are also farming and the fear is they’ll have to move away as farming will no longer be sustainable for them.
“What should happen is these guys be given the opportunity to do rehabilitate the bogs, which would give them 10 years’ work at least. They’re doing it in Attymon. It’s for carbon sequestration so that Ireland can be a real good country for climate change.”
Peat is currently burned in three power stations – Edenderry in Co Offaly, run by Bord na Mona, can burn peat and biomass fuel. Two ESB plants in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and Lanesborough, Co Longford have yet to be converted for renewable biomass fuel, which is regarded as carbon neutral.
It is widely expected that those applications will be lodged by the ESB in the next month, according to the senior employee.
Some 40% of the biomass fuel needed for the power plants is grown in Ireland mainly in the form of woodchips and the rest will have to be imported from as far away as Africa and Australia.
Bord na Mona are experimenting with growing other biomass crops such as willow and eucalyptus to ramp up the indigenous biomass industry.
Deputy Fitzmaurice, a peat contractor, said he understands that it’s not currently paying farmers to grow woodchip.
“There’s 3,000 acres being grown at the moment and 500 acres were put back into agriculture. It’s not adding up.
“We’ve gone mad if you ask me. It’s going to cost €60 million more to produce biomass as well as leaving people off and leaving ourselves more reliant on fuels outside the country.”
Marian Harkin, MEP for the Midlands North West, said the Bord na Mona workers who are made redundant could be eligible for assistance under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF).
She was the chief negotiator for the European Parliament for the setting up of the current EGF, which is help for workers who lose their jobs due to globalisation or an economic crisis.
“The priority right now is to concentrate on the workers who will be made redundant and to assess their needs and skills and preferences. Then the Department of Education and Skills must put together an application in conjunction with the workers themselves, and their representatives, that will provide the redundant workers with relevant training, upskilling or the possibility of grant aid towards starting up their own business.
“While the normal threshold for applying for the EGF is 500 redundancies, we in the European Parliament have included a measure whereby if the redundancies are less than 500 but will have a significant impact on the local or regional economy then an application can be made. This is most certainly the case in the midlands region for which the latest CSO employment statistics show a significantly higher unemployment rate than the rest of the country.”
She said Ireland had already made a number of successful applications under the 500 threshold including three separate applications for the SR Technics workers.
About 85 workers at the Littleton peat briquette plant in Co Tipperary run by Bord na Móna were made compulsorily redundant earlier this year in a deal negotiated by three unions ahead of the factory’s closure.
Departing staff got six weeks’ pay for every year worked with Bord na Móna, up to a total of 104 weeks – the legal minimum redundancy payment is two weeks for every year. The company agreed to top up their pension by four per cent a year and make other extra payments.
Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer
On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.
While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.
“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.
“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”
Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!
Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.
But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.
The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.
She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.
The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.
“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.
“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”
Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery
Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.
But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.
The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.
To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.
“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.
But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.
Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie