Fears for workers after plant closures

The incomes of hundreds of Bórd na Móna workers throughout County Roscommon have been threatened this week by the suspension of operations at the ESB power stations in Lanesboro and Shannonbridge. The closure of the ESB power stations for an indefinite period of time threatens to render hundreds of seasonal peat-harvest workers superfluous over the course of the next 15 months. Last Tuesday Lanesboro Power station was closed indefinitely following the revelation of technical difficulties at the plant. The plants at Shannonbridge and at Edenderry in Offaly were closed as a precautionary measure. The ESB has said that it expects operations to resume in six weeks. It has failed to guarantee that this will be the case, however, and there is speculation that difficulties will continue for the rest of the summer. Bórd na Móna is continuing this week to harvest peat but it is feared that the company’s workers will suffer later this summer and next year. Because the ESB plants are not operating presently, Bórd na Móna is stockpiling turf in the bogs. It is feared that a long-term closure will eliminate the need for the harvesting later this season and next year. The ESB will burn the stockpiled peat before commissioning further harvesting. Speaking to Roscommon People yesterday (Wednesday) local public representatives Eugene Murphy (Strokestown) and Adie Farrell (Lanesboro) expressed concern for the futures of part-time workers. Cllr. Murphy stressed the need to avoid a ‘false alarm’ on the issue but said that a long-term suspension would have repercussions for workers in the area. Cllr. Farrell told Roscommon People that his concern similarly relates to the lots of seasonal workers. ‘ Bórd na Móna usually employs a lot of people every year. This is a big part of life in Lanesboro: many of the third-level students from this area have traditionally been greatly helped by this work. If the plant is closed for a sustained period of time it will cause difficulties for seasonal workers,’ said Cllr. Farrell.