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Saturday 25 November 2017

Turf cutters get €15,000 payout

Turf cutters barred from taking peat from raised bogs are to get maximum compensation of €15,000.

Thirty-one sites in the West and Midlands were shut down last year with local landowners barred from cutting fuel and offered €1,000 a year for the next 15 years.

But it is understood TDs are in talks with Europe to strike a deal to allow smallholders limited access on another 24 raised bogs facing closure.

Luke "Ming" Flanagan, Independent TD, vowed to back people who ignore the ban and continue to cut turf.

"The Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA) are making it quite clear that they think it is bad value for money," he said.

"And if all turf cutters think they are going to get compensation then they are very naive."

Mr Flanagan claimed 376 people out of 1,200 who sold bogland to the state under a previous special conservation scheme have yet to be paid.

The latest initiative to protect boglands designated special areas of conservation under European Union law was announced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Mr Flanagan said there was no mention of it at a meeting he held with the minister yesterday evening and he warned it could create a dispute as deep as Shell's Corrib gas project in Mayo.

"They are not on for consultation, they are on for ramming this down our throats," the Independent said.

"And I can tell you, what happened down in Bellanaboy will be a teddy bears' picnic compared to this. The TCCA is not and has never been about compensation."

Mr Flanagan also accused Fine Gael TDs of reneging on election promises, including his Roscommon election rival Frank Feighan, who said he would "sign his name in blood" to oppose turf cutting bans.

Government TD Mr Feighan claimed talks would continue with European officials, turf cutters and a new Peatlands Council to reach a "satisfactory solution" for rural households.

"We cannot reverse the ban but we want to ensure that people will continue to cut turf," Mr Feighan accepted.

"I believe the commitment I have given will be satisfactorily met in the coming months. What it needs is cool heads."

It is estimated that an acre of bogland would provide a family with fuel for 300 years. Bord na Mona's own figures value one acre at 285,000 euro.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, warned: "We have legal obligations and there will be immediate consequences if we do not meet them."

If the ban is not officially imposed, Europe could impose fines of about 4,000 euro a day and possibly backdate it 10 years. Financial penalties will also be fast-tracked, the Government has been warned.

There are more than 1,500 raised bogs in Ireland and 139 of these have been designated for nature protection.

Since the end of last year bans have been put on 31 raised bogs in Cavan, Meath, Galway, Offaly, Tipperary, Kerry, Kildare, Mayo, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Westmeath and Longford.

Another 24 bogs will be shut down at the end of this year in Laois, Kildare, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath, Clare, Galway, Longford, Kerry, Tipperary, Mayo and Sligo.

Press Association

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