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Connacht Tribune

Axe hangs over Galway Bord na Mona workers

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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.

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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