The West Offaly Power Station in Shannonbridge is set to be disconnected from the national grid this afternoon after more than 52 years.
The 150-megawatt turf-burning plant will wind down after five decades, as its sister plant in Lanesboro, Co Longford is also to shut this month as the Republic strives to meet its climate goals.
Permission was refused last year to switch both plants over to burning biomass, with the last trains of peat arriving from Bord na Mona works in east Galway this week.
Brendan Coughlan spent his career on the Bog of Allen, after joining the company as a fitter in the 1970s.
“A very, very historic day. A sad day for the thousands of men that worked there down through the years,” he said.
“A lot of the bogs are at the end of their natural life. You know the peat has been extracted and there’s not much left anyway. You might say maybe a year or two premature to close then down now but it was coming anyway.”
Young man's game
Mr Coughlan said many Bord na Mona workers will find it difficult to adapt to new work in the renewable energy sector.
“If you’re a fitter in your late 50s or early 60s... you’re used to working in a company like Bord na Mona, it’s going to be very difficult to transfer over,” he said.
“That whole thing of fitting renewable energy and that type of thing into houses... that’s a young man’s game really.”
Siptu organiser Willie Noone said grants aiming to replace turf jobs do not provide the same economic security, with many workers unsure if they will have a job in the New Year.
“We’ve asked on three separate occasions of the company, can they at least tell people are they going to have work over the Christmas period at this stage, so they can plan over the Christmas period, and unfortunately we’ve got silence,” he said.
We can’t get a straight answer from the company
“To tell employees who’ve been there for 30 years will you or will you not be there for Christmas... we can’t get a straight answer from the company. Some of those workers are afraid to go public with that type of complaint.”
“There is a number of people still there who would like to take voluntary severance but are not allowed to take voluntary severance, company won’t give it to them,” Mr Noone said.
Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly has called for the Government to urgently intervene to ensure a “just transition” for midlands communities and the workers.
“We all recognise the climate impact of burning peat, but the rapid winddown of the power plants will have a devastating impact on the communities that rely on the economic and social contribution of the stations,” Mr Kelly said.
“The closure of Shannonbridge today, and Lanesboro next week without any clear plan for the future is deeply concerning.”