Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Dept braced for turf ban revolt

IFA demands compensation for farmers

Paul Melia

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER John Gormley faces a sustained campaign against the new ban on turf-cutting on raised bogs unless he introduces an adequate compensation package, the IFA has warned.

With some turf cutters threatening to go to jail in defiance of the ban, the IFA said Mr Gormley must significantly strengthen the compensation package on offer to families and individuals affected by the ban, which took immediate effect from last week.

"Failure to do so will lead to a massive rejection of his attempts to stop turf cutting on 25,000ac of bog next year," said IFA conservation spokesman Padraic Divilly.

"The €1,000 offer to bog owners who have been stopped from cutting turf this year is some recognition of the value of turf extraction for home use, but turf cutters must be given other options," said Mr Divilly.

"These should include being allowed to cut turf for domestic purpose, relocation to other bogs with compensation, a 100pc grant for installation of alternative domestic heating systems and the opportunity for the purchase of their bogs by the National Parks and Wildlife Service."

Mr Gormley last week announced plans to ban cutting on 32 raised bogs classed as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) where wildlife is protected.

Similar bans will take effect on 24 more SACs by the end of next year, followed by another 75 Natural Heritage Areas at the end of 2013, as 10-year derogations that Ireland had negotiated with the EU are set to run out. Mr Gormley stated that Ireland could be fined millions by the EU for non- compliance.

But the Turf Cutters and Contractors Associaton (TCCA) said the new bans are the result of a "flawed" and "farcical" consultation process between Government and the turf cutters.

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"The process on which these bans are based is a flawed process. Approximately 8pc of the bogs are privately owned, the rest are in the ownership of the State. There is no reason to pick on 8pc of the most deprived population in the country, and more than 60pc of the affected bog is west of the Corrib," said TCCA spokeswoman Sile O'Connor.

"If the Commission is that interested in levying fines, they would have come in 10 years ago. There's about 6,000 people involved in the bogs. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with conservation."

"We entered into any negotiations they (inter-departmental committee) wanted, bent over backwards to facilitate them and pointed out it had nothing to do with money. This problem can be sorted out by common sense," she added.

Landowners who ignore the ban face fines of €1,270 and/or six months in prison. Turf-cutting or drainage works on these sites cannot proceed without the express consent of the minister, and it's estimated that 750 people will be affected by the ban on works in raised bogs.

Raised bogs account for less than 5pc of Ireland's peatlands, and they have been identified as SACs by the EU because of the threat from commercial turf cutting, afforestation and over-grazing.

Irish Independent