Bord na Móna and Coillte must change to prioritise local workers — Mulherin

Fine Gael Mayo TD for Mayo Michelle Mulherin has received confirmation from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, that stipulations can be made to ensure that local workers are prioritised during construction phase in public contracts. Deputy Mulherin has called for this stipulation to applied in the case of the construction of the State’s largest wind energy farm at Oweninny. “I have received confirmation from Minister Howlin in response to a parliamentary question I submitted that there is a mechanism available which could be utilised to give priority to local workers in public construction contracts. I believe this can and should be applied in the case of the wind energy farm at Oweninny,” she said. “In response to my initial proposal that local people be prioritised for employment in the construction of the wind farm at Oweninny, Bord na Móna and Coillte stated that they are prohibited from prioritising local staff because of EU procurement rules. However Minister Howlin’s statement confirms that this is not the case. However Minister Howlin has confirmed to me that the European Commission issued guidance in 2010 that in pursuance of certain social objectives the public procurement process can be used to prioritise employment and training opportunities for young unemployed or long-term unemployed, in a contract for services awarded by these state companies. In the case of the wind farm at Oweninny, it is my contention that such a clause should be used and a derogation sought to provide work for locals who are long term unemployed and for training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people.”

She concluded, “I urge Bord na Móna and Coillte to re-examine this approach in relation to Oweninny wind farm. I believe this is an essential strand in a package of community benefits to ensure the buy in of the local community, which is a vital factor in the success of wind farms. It will also help tackle unemployment in an area which has experienced significant job losses, especially in the construction sector.”

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