EU ban on cutting turf will cost State €11m in payoffs
THE State is to spend more than €11m compensating bog-owners who will be banned from cutting turf from the end of this year.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan yesterday announced details of a compensation package for cutters who will no longer be allowed gather turf on raised bogs in the West and Midlands because of EU rules.
The scheme will pay some 750 turf-cutters a total of €15,000 each over the next 15 years for the loss of their rights.
Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who is also a spokesman for the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, last night accused Fine Gael of reneging on its promise to discuss the issue.
He said the ban would be ignored by families who relied on turf to heat their homes.
"We were promised that Fine Gael would negotiate with us and we're very disappointed because we were made a promise," Mr Flanagan said last night.
"We won't be letting people go cold this year or next. It seems it's not Irish people who run this country but Europe.
"The promise was there would be negotiations where everything would be on the table, where people who wanted compensation could take it or where people could be moved to another bog.
"But in about 16pc of cases we know this isn't possible. South Sligo and into Galway is just one bog after another, there's nowhere else to cut. People will have to be accommodated on the bog they are on."
Cutting was stopped on 24 bogs last year, and the ban was extended to another 31 yesterday. Cutting at a further 75 bogs will cease by the end of 2013.
The move comes after the EU threatened to enforce a ban which is designed to protect bogs classed as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Ireland had negotiated a 10-year derogation, but that has expired.
The Government said that €1,000 per turf cutter per year would be offered as compensation.
"We have legal obligations and there will be immediate consequences if we do not meet them," Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said.
The Irish Farmers' Association said the compensation package did not go far enough, and that payments should be €2,000 per year for the lifetime of the bog.