Government may allow turfcutting on protected bogs


THE GOVERNMENT is to “examine the feasibility of allowing . . . some limited turfcutting” on a small number of the 53 raised bogs protected by European legislation, it was revealed yesterday.

But both Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan agreed with EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik that this possibility “could only be considered in a manner consistent with the habitats directive”.

Pending completion of a national plan to restore the 53 sites, “no turfcutting could take place on the protected bogs”, according to a joint statement issued after they met in Brussels. The meeting was also attended by Conor Skehan, chairman of the Peatlands Council.

It was agreed that the European Commission would work closely with the Government on the “urgent preparation” of a national plan for the conservation and restoration of 53 internationally important Irish raised bog sites protected under the habitats directive.

“This plan will have the aim of comprehensively addressing the challenge of conserving the sites for future generations, while having full regard to the concerns of affected turfcutters,” the joint statement said.

“Ministers Deenihan and Hogan reaffirmed the Irish Government’s commitment to working expeditiously within the framework of the habitats directive and explained the steps the Irish Government had already taken.

“They also updated the commissioner on the intensive efforts now under way to relocate turfcutters to unprotected bogs”, it said, adding that the national plan would “be developed, as a matter of priority, as quickly as possible and in close consultation with stakeholders”.