State spends €45k for flight surveillance of bogs
More than €45,000 has been spent in the past year on hiring helicopters to carry out surveillance on bogs.
The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has confirmed it is using helicopters for this purpose and that it has forked out €45,206 for the flights in the past 12 months.
It came as the European Commission warned that it may take court action against Ireland if illegal turf cutting on protected bogs continues.
The Commission met with Irish officials this week where it expressed serious concern that illegal cutting was still taking place on the country's protected raised bogs.
In a statement, the European Commission said that action would be taken if the bogs were not protected with immediate effect.
"The Commission reserves its right to refer this case to court if this is necessary to ensure compliance with the law," it warned.
The meeting follows a number of incidents of turf cutting on Special Area of Conservation (SAC) bogs around the country in recent weeks.
Turf cutters gathered on a number of restricted bogs in Galway and Roscommon recently where they continued to cut banks of peat, and prevented gardai from interfering with the machinery as it left the bogs.
Gardai have kept a close eye on the activities of the protesters and have been recording details and taking photographs of those breaking the law. However, no arrests have been made.
Those opposed to the legislation have vowed to continue cutting turf on the country's 53 SAC bogs. They claim that close to half the restricted bogs have been cut in the first six months of the year.