Stanley calls on Government to clarify position on turf-cutting
Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Deputy Brian Stanley, questioned the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government on his plans to allow an exemption for domestic turf cutting on 75 national area sites and called on him to introduce the promised agreed code of environmental practices to provide clarity for people who are depending on cutting their own turf for fuel.
The Laois-Offaly TD said;
“In May 2010 the previous government confirmed the end of the derogation for domestic turf cutting on 130 raised bog sites from that year. Laois Offaly has 15 bogs in the area that are directly affected by the ending of this derogation. Many people are dependent on these bogs for their fuel supply. They don’t have access to piped gas, and the price of oil is increasing rapidly as the time goes on. It is imperative that the Minister ensure that these people are not left without fuel or put at risk of fuel poverty.
“The agreed Programme for Government states that the continuation of cutting turf in these areas will be allowed subject to the introduction of environmental guidelines. This needs clarity. It is unfortunate that the Minister when responding to my question did not say when these guidelines would be introduced. While people are being told unofficially to keep cutting turf, there has been no meaningful response by the Government.
“We need clarity with regard the extension of the derogation, the proposed mediation scheme, and any proposed compensation scheme where people are forced to stop cutting turf. This cannot be put on the long-finger.”
Question Nos. 15, 21, 27, 29 and 32
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government:
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to allow an exemption for domestic turf cutting on 75 National Area sites and the date on which he will introduce an agreed code of environmental practices.
- Sandra McLellan.
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to establish an independent mediation between relevant stakeholders in order to facilitate resolution to 55 Special Area of Conservation designated bogs.
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans regarding the voluntary bog purchase scheme and other compensation schemes for commercial and domestic turf cutters who have been obliged to cease activities with designated bogs.
- Peadar Tóibín.
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to establish an independent mediation to resolve outstanding issues associated with turf cutting on blanket bogs and the date on which this will be established.
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to seek an extension of the Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area derogation beyond 2013.
- Michael Colreavy.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 6th April, 2011.
Ref Nos: 6920/11, 6926/11, 6927/11, 6909/11 and 6908/11
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)
I propose to take Question Nos. 15, 21, 27, 29 and 32 together.
Between 1997 and 2005 Ireland designated 55 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 75 Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) for the conservation of raised bog habitat.
In 1999, the then Minister announced a 10-year national derogation during which domestic turf cutting could continue subject to certain restrictions. This applied to 31 raised bog sites designated at that time. A similar 10-year derogation was applied to the SACs and NHAs designated subsequently.
In May 2010, the previous Government confirmed the end of the derogation for domestic turf cutting in these 130 Raised Bog conservation sites, on a phased basis, with an effective cessation of turf-cutting being implemented on 31 raised bog SACs from 2010.
I believe that we need to develop a strategic approach to how we manage our peatlands in Ireland. To that end the Programme for Government committed to 3 particular actions in relation to peat conservation issues:
• An exemption for domestic turf cutting on 75 NHA raised bogs subject to an agreed national code of environmental practices,
• An independent mediation mechanism to facilitate resolution on the 55 SAC raised bogs, and
• An independent mediation mechanism to resolve issues on blanket bogs.
The European Commission has been critical of Ireland’s approach to the protection of peatland habitat and initiated infringement proceedings against Ireland in January this year. I have already met twice with EU Environment Commissioner Potočnik to discuss the matter since taking office.
The Government intends to act in accordance with the commitments in the Programme for Government so as to address the European Commission infringement proceedings, and respond to the need to give full effect to the decision of May 2010.
I will be announcing details of the Government’s intentions on these matters in the coming days, and these announcements will also address the position in respect of NHAs.
The voluntary bog purchase scheme is currently, and will remain, closed to new applicants. My Department will be writing shortly to current applicants under the scheme to update them on their options arising from the Government’s intended approach for the future.
It is our intention to resolve the longstanding issues regarding peat extraction on protected sites by working with turf-cutters and local communities to address legitimate concerns while ensuring that Ireland is in compliance with EU environmental legislation. We are putting in place a range of measures which will be designed to meet these twin aims.