21/06/2012 – Turfcutters must work within the law – Deenihan
Thursday, June 21st – The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has reiterated his call to turf-cutters affected by the cessation of turf cutting on 53 raised bogs to work within the law – and the existing compensation package – to move forward on this issue, and has said that Irish and European laws on environmental and heritage protections cannot be cast aside.
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commented:
“Whilst policing is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána, I understand that earlier this afternoon the Gardaí removed and technically examined a piece of turf cutting equipment as part of their ongoing investigations into suspected instances of illegal turf cutting on environmentally protected bogs. Following this examination the equipment has been returned on the basis that it will not be used in breach of the law, and information gathered from the equipment forms part of the ongoing investigation.
“Since taking office, my priority has been to work with affected turf cutters – through dialogue and negotiation – to find a solution to this issue. I have enhanced the compensation package – now 23,000 euro, tax free and index linked – and worked with people to find alternative bogs where they can cut turf legally or arranged the delivery of 15 tonnes of turf to their home so that they have ample fuel for the coming winter. My Department has set aside 5 million euro for compensation payments for this year alone.
“I have also had intense engagement with the European Commission in the matter, as requested by Dáil Éireann in a unanimous motion approved by the Dáil in March and as called for by Justice Quirke in his independent report from the Peatlands Forum.
“However, in all of this – time and again – I have also said that the law must be observed. The alternative is for the law of the land to be flouted and for Ireland to face daily fines of 25,000 euro for environmental damage. The law cannot be cast aside and neither can the taxpayer afford these fines.
“The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will continue to work closely with An Garda Síochána to investigate any cases or suspected cases of illegal turf cutting.”