Hundreds of people have attended a demonstration in Lanesborough, Co Longford this evening to protest the planned layoff of workers at the Bord na Móna plant in the town.

The company made the move after of the decision by the ESB to suspend the operation of its peat-fired power plant at Lough Ree following legal proceedings taken by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The workers affected are employed in peat supply, bog operations and maintenance at the nearby Mount Dillon works which supply the electricity plant at Lanesborough. 

The power station is expected to remain offline for an undefined period of time.

78 seasonal workers have already been laid off and 72 permanent staff are also being affected by the closure.

Bord na Móna said that it is looking into whether permanent staff can be redeployed, however, Willie Noone, Sector Organiser with SIPTU, said he believed the company was still looking for layoffs. 

"Bord na Móna told us last Friday evening they were going to commence layoffs today. We believe they only stopped because they knew the community wouldn’t accept it," he added.

Mr Noone said unions had demonstrated how jobs could be retained and staff were willing to use up annual leave while the power station remained offline. 

"We are willing to engage, we have found the answers, but unfortunately the company is not listening. 

"We need an orderly wind down if a wind down has to happen. We have accepted long term peat is not the answer, but we haven't accepted that people are being treated the way they are being treated," Mr Noone said.