Yesterday was far from a good day for 430 Bord na Móna staff, their families and their communities. The accelerated decarbonisation programme will move its traditional peat business into renewables and resource recovery and reduce the number of managerial, administrative and peat operations workers. We wish the company well in its efforts to diversify into wind, solar power and waste management, as well as in respect of the prospects for herbal medicine, aquaculture and cluster energy parks. These are all very commendable and worthwhile and we hope they will reap benefits. Immediately, however, we will see the closure of 17 bogs out of 63 across the counties of Offaly, Roscommon, Westmeath and Kildare. The workforce and communities understand the programme associated with decarbonisation and are committed to it. That was borne out by virtue of the workforce agreement with management at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, as long ago as 2016, when they signed up to a programme that would have seen the eradication of peat by 2030 and the diminishing of the workforce on those products over time, mainly as a consequence of the age profile associated with that sector of the business.
Bord na Móna was established in the 1940s with a particular remit to create jobs for the people of the midlands region in order that they might derive a living in their own region. The procedures that culminated in yesterday's announcement should not have put the Government on the back foot, but they have. That is why I put the following questions and observations to the Tánaiste. I welcome the comments I heard immediately after the announcement from the relevant Ministers. The first obligation is to those who will immediately lose their jobs, that there be adequate recompense and a package that meets their needs and requirements, and that it be to the fore of all immediate efforts.
Second, can the Government acknowledge the commitment made by ESB and ensure that it is carried out, namely, that it move forward with its planning operations for the cofuelling of peat and biomass at Lanesborough, Shannonbridge and Edenderry, which only has up to 2023? Can they be extended to 2025? They were waiting until last Monday week for the Government to eventually confirm it was Government policy for such cofuelling to continue.
My third question relates to a letter I sent to the Taoiseach earlier this week. Will the Government agree with my suggestion to put in place a just, sustainable forum with the relevant stakeholders available to participate, funded by ring-fenced funds from the carbon tax, savings as a result of the public service obligation being done away with in 2019 for the ESB plants and by the globalisation fund from the EU? I have also written to the relevant Commissioners in this regard.
It is a discussion I had briefly with the Minister for Finance during the negotiations on carbon tax. We did not necessarily agree with its increase except that it be used in the right manner rather than merely a revenue generating exercise for the State.