State spent €128k hiring out helicopters to spy on bogs
THE State has paid out more than €128,000 on surveillance of protected bogs over the past four years, the Irish Independent has learned.
The bill was racked up mostly through the hiring of helicopters to monitor activity on the raised bogs which are considered Special Areas of Conservation.
Figures released to the Irish Independent show the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht paid out €105,417.93 from 2011 to date on hiring helicopters to monitor the bogs.
Surveillance is carried out on areas where there is a requirement that turf cutting cease.
A spokesperson for the department stressed that it only hired in private aircraft when the Air Corps was not in a position to undertake these flights.
Figures from the Department of Defence show surveillance flights had cost the Air Corps €22,703 in the past two years.
The total Air Corps figures were not broken down for bog surveillance prior to 2013.
However, the figures from both departments reveal the cost of monitoring the bogs has dropped dramatically this year.
While the total bill for 2013 was €76,373 for private helicopter and Air Corps surveillance, it has dropped significantly, hitting just €6,448 this year to date.
A breakdown of the cost incurred by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht shows it has paid out €3,516.84 to date this year.
The largest bill for hiring private helicopters occurred in 2013 when €56,602.05 was paid out to private aircraft.
This was a rise from the €9,543.33 total for the final six months of 2011 and €35,755.71 for 2012. "There would be other ground monitoring work carried out by officials of the department in relation to the cessation of turf cutting which would be undertaken as part of their normal course of duties and therefore separate costs are not available for this work," a department spokesperson said.
Separately a spokesperson for the Department of Defence confirmed the total cost to the Air Corps of bog surveillance had reached €19,771 in 2013.
Up until June 26 of this year the Air Corps had amassed bills of €2,932 on bog surveillance.
A spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht added: "Ireland is at risk of action before the European Court of Justice if these Special Areas of Conservation, which are protected under Irish and European law, are not preserved."