Calls have been made for the government to move up its schedule of cut away bog rehabilitation plans and release €30 million in funding so work can begin immediately.
Galway Roscommon TD Denis Naughten said should be used to start work on bog rehabilitation now in light of concerns raised by unions about the future of 2,000 jobs at Bord na Mona.
Deputy Naughten said that the Taoiseach has assured him money from the Climate Action Fund will be used on bog rehabilitation to secure those jobs in the short term.
A letter from Leo Varadkar to Deputy Naughten said that the cabinet has met to discuss issues with jobs at Bord na Mona, and he agreed that “funding the rehabilitation of cut away bogs from the Climate Action Fund should form part of the solution”.
“On foot of the Taoiseach’s commitment I have written to the Department of Energy asking that these funds be released without delay,” the Deputy confirmed.
“Bord na Mona has a land holding of just under 200,000 acres across the country and while some of it can be considered for new commercial uses, such as the growing of herbs, other lands will naturally return to nature,” Denis Naughten said.
“As a result, there is a considerable land bank where peat extraction has already ceased, which would naturally flood, and where work on rehabilitation can start including the provision of recreational facilities such as walking and cycling trails.”
One project the Independent TD cited is Ballinasloe Parkland Project, which would utilise the cut away bogs outside the town of Ballinasloe which will eventually be park of the Galway-Dublin greenway.
To highlight the potential of such rehabilitation projects and the benefits they can bring to the community Deputy Naughten pointed to Mount Lucas in Offaly, which already attracts 50,000 visitors a year.
“It was originally intended to carry out rehabilitation works on the bogs over a 15 year period and tie this in with the winding down of peat harvesting”.
“But the commentary by the Bord na Mona group of unions, now means that these plans must now be put into action immediately,” stated Denis Naughten.
On top of securing jobs, getting started on bog rehabilitation as quickly as possible will also reduce peat oxidation and carbon loss in them, as well as providing a window of time to a create a revised economic plan for the midlands to be created he added.
“It is important that any development plan not only looks at the 2000 people working directly in Bord na Mona & the ESB, even though that’s the immediate priority but also focuses on about 2000 indirect jobs in other local businesses and the children of those 4,000 families who need to have sustainable employment in our region long into the future”