Oireachtas members seek answers from ESB after shutdown



Fears remain over Lough Ree Power jobs



Bord na Móna management met with workers’ union SIPTU yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) following talks with local public representatives earlier this week. No resolution had been reached at the time of going to press.

  Oireachtas members had met with ESB and Bord na Móna officials earlier this week to discuss the recent shutdown of the ESB’s Lough Ree power station in Lanesboro and the subsequent fall-out which led to Bord na Móna announcing that almost 150 workers, 70 permanent and 78 seasonal employees, were to be laid off or placed on unpaid leave. 

  The plant has been offline since earlier this month due to concerns over hot water discharges from the facility into the River Shannon nearby. The ESB confirmed it had suspended operations at the plant. It was subsequently revealed the company had breached their license with the EPA four times previously and felt they were at risk of doing so again if the plant continued in operation.

  The ESB released a statement to say that it had “sought an amendment to its environmental licence in relation to its cooling water discharge temperature in the river Shannon, which in this regard is of particular relevance during the summer months”. The company added that it would not resume operations until the amendment was improved.

  Deputy Denis Naughten said that Oireachtas members had asked SIPTU officials to meet with management at Bord na Móna with the intention of exploring the temporary redeployment of staff until a decision on the amendment was made.

  Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said he and Oireachtas members Deputy Denis Naughten, Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, and Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran had met with ESB officials on Tuesday, who were unable to confirm whether or not the amendment would be approved or if operations at the plant would resume.

  Deputy Murphy said the ESB claimed the hot water being pumped into the Shannon at the plant was not an issue until last year when drought conditions resulted in a drop in water levels at Lough Ree.

  He added that the company seemed unable to answer certain questions around the resumption of operations at the plant and that Oireachtas members are yet to receive all the information they had been looking for from the ESB.

  Deputy Murphy said: “There are a lot of ‘what if?’ questions here such as the changeover to biomass, the Bord na Móna supply of peat. Some of the answers were satisfactory while some were not”.

  He added that Oireachtas members also met with Bord na Móna officials yesterday (Wednesday) “to push the case for the retention of permanent employees” after the company had rowed back on previous plans to lay off around 70 permanent staff at its Mount Dillon facility in Co. Longford due to the Lough Ree Power Plant shutdown.

  “Employees and the local community are angry. They feel let down by Bord na Móna and ESB. They feel there are underhanded tactics to speed up the closure of parts of the plant.

  “The purpose of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s meetings was to push the case for the retention of the permanent employees. We also raised the difficulties faced by those temporary employees, often students in summer jobs, who have been left with nothing.

  “Workers in the midlands are looking for support. They feel they have been treated poorly by the ESB and Bord na Móna. Both organisations should meet with employees and at the very least treat them with decency and respect during this process. Hopefully the board of management will see sense,” he said.

  While it was announced that 78 seasonal employees were to be laid off, Bord na Móna’s decision to lay off permanent staff had been suspended following discussions between workers’ union SIPTU and management last Friday night.