'I thought it was one of the safest jobs in Ireland'
Shock as Bord na Móna cuts 70 staff and shuts briquette factory
The village of Littleton was left stunned as Bord na Móna confirmed it would closing its peat briquette factory next year with the loss of more than 70 jobs.
The company briefed workers at the Co Tipperary plant while simultaneously telling staff at Bord na Móna's other briquette production operation in Derrinlough, Co Offaly, that their jobs would be safe.
Production at Littleton is to be wound up by next April, with 69 permanent employees to lose their jobs, while there will also be "some impact" on the employment of 56 people who work at a nearby peat-harvesting operation.
The move follows a "very significant decline in sales" of peat briquettes over the past few years, with Bord na Móna citing increased competition, consumer trends, low oil prices, the carbon tax and other factors. All production of briquettes, including new biomass briquettes, will be concentrated at Derrinlough, which currently employs 61 people.
"This has been a very difficult decision following a period of uncertainty for employees," said Bord na Móna's head of fuels, Eddie Scaife.
Worker Pat Dunican said he was "devastated" when told the news.
"You would have thought it was one of the safest jobs in the country, being a semi-state body," he said. "We're just going to have to find something else".
Local businesses were reeling from the news. Local butcher Paudie Fitzpatrick told the Irish Independent "there's nothing left here" following recent closures of both the Lisheen and Galmoy Mines, not too far away, and gates long shut at the old sugar factory and Erin Foods factory in Thurles.
"Look at Clonmel down there, it's booming, and Nenagh the same. There's nothing in the middle of the county."
Hairdresser Margaret Cantwell said. "It's going to be an awful blow to here, absolutely. Bord na Móna is there for years upon years and it gave an awful lot of employment around the area and an awful lot of apprenticeships."
GAA club committee member Ed Donnelly said: "There are numerous people employed there who are in the GAA club and trying to find alternative employment for them would be a huge concern. There are people I know who have been working there 20 or 30 years and are potentially at an age where they may have difficulty getting jobs. It's not necessarily a young workforce and that makes it even harder."
Offaly North Tipperary TD Barry Cowen described the planned closure as an unfortunate continuation of the trend in the peat industry.
The Bord na Móna group of unions said it wouldn't accept the decision to close the Littleton facility. "It will be opposed by our members by all legitimate means, including industrial action,' Siptu organiser John Rogan said.