TV documentary on the end of bog harvesting for Irish midlands

Leinster Express reporter

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Will the Midland's become Ireland's Rust Belt? New TG4 documentary 'Gan Fód' finds out

A documentary will air shortly on TG4 on what the end of bog harvesting means for midlands communities including Laois.

'Gan Fód' is a one-hour documentary for TG4 that tells the story of a changing Ireland and of our unique relationship with the bog. The programme makers ask what matters more people and jobs or sustainability and the environment? 

By 2027 Bord na Móna will cease peat harvesting. But with Climate change on everyone’s mind and Ireland facing massive fines with carbon tax this has been brought forward to 2020. With a “just transition” leaving workers in limbo, what does this actually mean for the 1,500 employees that are left?

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Set up in the 1930’s, The Turf Development Board’s main aim was to generate fuel and electricity for our country, create employment and bring economic activity to rural Ireland. Since then Bord na Móna and the ESB have been the backbone of the midlands communities. Already 600 employees have applied for voluntary redundancies.

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It’s expected that a significant amount of jobs will go in the coming months. Most of these employees are men; their average age is over 50. Being replaced with unmanned wind turbines, changing both the landscape and the economic future of the area indefinitely. But is this about more than loss of jobs? What is it about the bogs that we hold dear? Is it a way of life?

TG4 meets the people for whom these bogs provided not just an income but also helped form and connect communities, families and were a source of camaraderie. For these people and the generations that went before them the bog provided a way of life.

“An lot of people don’t know about the bog…we know nothing else, we were brought up and reared on it…it’s all we had” - Mick Carey, loco driver with Bord na Móna. 

Eamonn O’Hanlon owner of the “The Mona Bar” talks about the knock on effect that will be felt in towns and villages, schools and churches in the midlands.

“The whole heart of rural Ireland is gone” he says.

With peatlands covering 1,200,000 hectares of our island, and 80,000 of that owned by Bord na Móna; we are now faced with the single largest change of lands in modern Irish history. We learn how a bog rehabilitation program works and why this work is vital and more importantly, why it needs to happen now.

“You are going to see a massive transformation in the next few years as peat production comes to an end and these bogs become colonized again with plants and animals” – Mark Mc Corrie, Bord na Móna Ecologist from Laois.

Is there any room for people or community in Ireland’s decarbonisation plan? As the machines dig deep, so it seems the roots of the dispute run deep too. For the Midlands it is a waiting game as to see its’ last tranche of industry disappear.

Tabú - Gan Fód is on Wednesday February 5 at 9.30pm, TG4