Mixed reaction to ‘pragmatic approach’ taken on bogs by Deenihan
Approach “does not reflect scientific advice and is not evidence-based”
Jimmy Deenihan: his decision to allow turf-cutting to continue on 45 NHA raised bogs in 2014 was welcomed by the IFA. Photograph: Frank Miller
The wider value of Ireland’s bogs as “carbon sinks” is barely acknowledged in the draft National Peatlands Strategy or the 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually from peatland degradation and the continued burning of turf for fuel and electricity generation.
An Taisce noted yesterday that these emissions were equivalent to the annual total from all cars in the State.
It also quoted the Environmental Protection Agency as saying in a 2011 report that “the continued carbon emissions from peat-burning are contrary to the national interest”.
To that extent, the “pragmatic approach” (his own words) taken by Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan – with the Government’s approval – “does not reflect scientific advice and is not evidence-based”, according to Ireland’s longest established environmental trust.
“The draft treats science – and the scientific consensus on the future prospects for humanity without action on climate change – as capable of being bargained away, traded against, or ‘balanced’ against other factors,” An Taisce said. “Such a view is the stuff of fantasy.”
However, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), which has been to the fore in pressing for EU action against Ireland over its failure to protect peatlands of European importance, gave a guarded welcome to the publication of the strategy and its supporting documents.
“If this work had been done in 1997 when the legislation came into place the violent confrontations that we have witnessed on the bogs over the last two years could have been avoided,” FIE director Tony Lowes said.
Indeed, defusing highly-charged emotions has been a primary objective.
Frank Feighan TD (FG, Roscommon) welcomed the plan, saying it had “provided clarity for turf-cutters and landowners and, while clearly a vexed issue for many communities, I am glad to note that 85 per cent of 435 active turf plots on the nine Roscommon NHA [natural heritage area] sites will see turf-cutting continue.”
Tom Turley, speaking for the IFA, said Deenihan’s decision to allow turf-cutting to continue on 45 NHA raised bogs in 2014 was “a step in the right direction and must be followed by the continued implementation of a comprehensive package for farmers who may be restricted in other areas”.