Pat Cox and his colleagues at the Bord na Móna Mountdillon Works on the Longford-Roscommon border were listening carefully to every word uttered by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe when he finally got to the tightly scripted "low carbon future" part of his Budget speech in Leinster House.

Mountdillon has been effectively paralysed for weeks, partly because of an environmental issue at the nearby ESB Lough Ree Power Station, but mostly because the end of the era of peat harvesting by Bord na Móna is due to hit much earlier than expected.

The problem is both ESB and Bord na Móna management planned for a "just transition" period of up to another ten years for Pat and his workmates to ease their way out of the business.

Their bosses seemed to believe a combination of burning biomass (sourced abroad) and the remaining tonnage of peat from the local bogs in the Midlands would be seen as sustainable development by the planning authorities.

That vision was torn to shreds by the An Bord Pleanála inspector over the summer when the viability of the entire scheme was severely questioned from start to finish and left both ESB and Bord na Móna management in a tail spin.

All of a sudden the "just transition" was in the toilet.

Seventy workers were already laid off - many of them with young families and mortgages to pay. Hundreds more were told their jobs would not last either. Milling and burning peat (with or without biomass) was now poison - and Bord na Móna and ESB knew it.

With no plan B in sight, the Bord na Móna unions went into emergency session and came out of a meeting with the company's Managing Director Tom Donnellan with a doomsday scenario on the tip of their tongues in the run up to the Budget.

They claimed the company was running out of money, borrowing to pay salaries and could fold even before Christmas - a message that was clearly targeted as much as the political classes inside and outside Government as anywhere else.

Bord na Móna subsequently released a far less dramatic appraisal of their situation claiming the company was financially sound with its banks but everyone's eyes quickly turned to Budget day and the prospect of some Government intervention that might ease the concerns over what was going on.

Paschal Donohoe did not disappoint.

"Midland communities feel very threatened by the potential closure of Bord Na Móna and ESB power stations in their region," he confirmed.

"While it is accepted that there is a need to change, it is the Government's duty to ensure that no one cohort of citizens, workers, communities or enterprises is left behind by this disruption and the Midlands will be the first region facing this disruption."

The sacrificial lambs of the peat business were to be offered a lifeline.

So what was the master plan to ease the pain? Pat Cox wasn't entirely impressed by the tone of it all when I caught up with him on the phone after the speech.

"It sounded very much like a bit of a window dressing in the run up to an election," he said. "I hope it wasn't intended that way."

The link between Paschal Donohoe's €20 million retrofitting plan for the Midlands and the creation of substantial jobs here is one that Bord na Móna workers do not immediately recognise.

When the Government talks of the creation of a new energy efficiency scheme targeted, initially, at the social housing stock in the region, Bord na Móna workers do not see huge job numbers for them or their redundant colleagues.

"This shouldn't really be called a Bord na Móna plan", Pat Cox said. "This seems much wider than that for a region and it's really nothing to do with our struggle to get out of the problems where we are in."

How many workers could actually turn around and be retrained to refit windows and doors in a council house? I ask the Bord na Móna worker if it's possible some of the younger lads who lost their jobs could indeed be offered that role, perhaps even using derelict factory sites in each community for training purposes?

"That would be positive if it happened," Pat said. "Trainees would drive anywhere if there was a job at the end and we would welcome that, but we would have to see how many workers could really be re-employed in that area.

"At the moment they are all at home for over 12 weeks with no jobs and no indication if they will ever work again and the problem is that many of them will not wait around. They have bills to pay and families to look out for."

"I am providing a further €5 million for peatland rehabilitation," Paschal Donohoe told the Dáil. "This is a 250% increase in the budget allocated for peatland rehabilitation, which supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and enhanced bio-diversity."

The Boora Parkland site near Ferbane in Co Offaly is perhaps the best example of how such a scheme can indeed be successfully pulled off with the money to be provided.

Hundreds of acres of cutaway bog are now flooded and re-developed there offering huge benefits for biodiversity. More than 100,000 people a year come to see the birds, cycle or walk around the parklands to admire the amazing flora and fauna.

But how many jobs are actually created on the site? The truth is less than ten. Bord na Móna workers are not impressed.

"We won't be found wanting. We will play our part in the community to try and embrace any ideas that come up", Pat Cox said later when we discussed the new 'Just Transition Fund' to be created after this Budget.

The Government said this fund will be devoted to those priorities identified by local communities themselves and aimed at helping the people here embrace the new era after peat harvesting with something that may create jobs and more awareness as well.

It said €6 million will be available for the first bite in 2020.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton will create something and somebody called a 'Just Transition Commissioner' shortly and it will be up to him or her to engage with Bord na Móna and the relevant unions, and work closely with the National Economic and Social Council and the local taskforce to make jobs and sense out of it all.

How much the JTC will be paid or how much the office will cost to set up remains to be seen, but Pat Cox and his colleagues say they will engage in the process as long as they are listened to and jobs are at the top of the agenda.

At the end of this section of the Budget speech, Paschal Donohoe took a stab at rounding up just how many jobs could or would be created by the full €31m package. It's not clear what formula was actually used to come to a conclusion, but he proceeded with his prediction unbounded.

"The investment will support over 400 environmentally sustainable jobs, with up to 100 more jobs through expanded peatlands rehabilitation", the minister claimed.

"Seeing is believing" was the immediate response to this comment down on the bog many miles away. The Group of Unions is apparently waiting to learn more about how this figure can actually be achieved.

Even though they knew 'Decarbonisation Day' was coming, the swiftness of events in the last six months has stunned people like Pat Cox, Willie Noone and the Bord na Móna Group of Unions.

They face an even tougher month in December when the Public Service Obligation levy is dropped and subsequently withdrawn from the price paid by ESB for a tonne of peat to Bord na Móna.

The ESB faces an immediate decision on the economic benefits of continuing to run Lough Ree Power and West Offaly Power from December onwards.

Many see this development as the end game for hundreds of Bord na Móna workers, nearly ten years ahead of the time they were originally told the curtain would indeed come down.

Nothing that Paschal Donohoe said or did in the Budget this week can ease the sense of shock and pain that this day has come.