European probe looms into turf-cutting here on protected bogs

Stock Image: Getty Images
Stock Image: Getty Images

Caroline O'Doherty

The European Commission has been asked to investigate turf-cutting on protected bogs after the Government's own reports admitted the practice was continuing.

A complaint sent to the commission in recent days cites the country's official Habitats Assessment Report, which found turf-cutting was continuing at 22 raised bogs designated Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and six that are Natural Heritage Areas.

It also includes social media posts from recent months where turf-cutters boasted of cutting at 53 protected bogs.

Reference is also made to information supplied by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to the Peatlands Council that 282 individual plots within peatland SACs were cut during 2019.

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Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), which lodged the complaint, also raised concerns about remarks by Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan last November in which she said she might seek exemptions to continue cutting at 14 protected sites.

"This proposal is astonishing from a government that is supposed to be addressing climate change across all departments, without even considering the impact on Ireland's dwindling biodiversity," the FIE said.

Turf is a fossil fuel and its burning needs to stop under climate action measures, while the bogs need to be preserved and rehabilitated to naturally preserve carbon rich materials and prevent emissions from entering the atmosphere.

The department said it did not comment on third party correspondence with the commission.

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It is the second time the FIE has brought the complaint to the commission. A previous investigation was closed in 2013 after assurances were received that action was being taken to stop cutting.

Irish Independent

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