The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has said the future of Bord Na Móna workers is a priority.

Richard Bruton said the Government are making sure a framework to support them will be in place within six months to provide them with opportunities to retrain.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics he said they will have a "package of measures that will look at supports for workers", at how they can rehabilitate the bogs and also how they can develop initiatives in the midlands, including retrofitting.

He said while the Government plan to deliver these measures in the next six months, it is contingent on the outcome of the planning process.

Earlier this year, the secretary of the Bord na Móna group of unions said up to 1,000 jobs could be lost in the Midlands in a five to six-month period.

The unions say there is a looming threat of job losses due to the potential loss the company's biggest peat customer, the ESB.    

With the support of Government Public Service Order funding the ESB buys Bord na Móna peat for two power generation stations in the midlands.  

However, the PSO funding runs out in December and the ESB has not said if they will purchase peat after that.    

In addition, existing planning permission to burn peat at the two power stations runs out in 2020.  

The ESB is seeking new permission to burn peat and biomass together, but already An Bord Pleanála has turned one application down. 

Mr Bruton said the Government is not going to wait for the outcome of the planning process before putting measures in place should the situation "turn out to be the worst".   


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Separately, Mr Bruton said the Government is determined to protect people who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of carbon tax increases.

It is believed that the Government plans to raise carbon taxes by between €6 and €8 per tonne in the upcoming Budget.

The minister defended the move to increase carbon taxes and explained where the money will be used.

He said we have to move gradually away from the use of fossil fuels.

"It is important we have to have small increases over a continued period and we use the money, ringfence it and use it to help the most vulnerable," he said.

"We will be putting more money to helping people in those situations who are in un-insulated houses who are using coal. Those are people who are really vulnerable to fuel poverty. We will be fixing that."

Mr Bruton also reiterated that there would not be a supplementary budget for Brexit, but said a framework has been put in place to deal with the implications of a no-deal Brexit. 

He said measures will be taken to protect workers and businesses most exposed to the threats of Brexit. 

"What we are doing now is putting the framework in place to cope with the implications of a hard exit," he said.

"We know and have assessed those implications - they will reduce growth very significantly in the economy to 0.7%.

"That is a big slowdown in the economy. So we have to put in place things that will protect workers and businesses, particularly those most exposed."