25/02/13 – Progress made in compensation and relocation for turf cutters – Deenihan
• More than 2,600 applications for compensation received
• 2,150 compensation payments have issued
• Almost 200 deliveries of turf made to homes
• Total expenditure on compensation package to date is almost €3.5 million
Friday, February 22nd – Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has outlined the progress that is being made in the management of the turf cutting issue on Special Area of Conservation (SAC) raised bogs.
Nationally, 53 raised bogs were nominated as SACs between 1997 and 2002, under the Habitats Directive signed by Ireland 21 years ago. These bogs – which make up about 2% of peatlands where turf extraction is feasible – are protected because they are unique in Europe, preserve a wealth of wildlife and are a fundamentally important part of our heritage and landscape.
In May 2010, the then Government decided that turf cutting on these bogs would come to an end. In January 2011, the then Government received a formal letter from the European Commission noting that Ireland faced legal proceedings in the European Courts as a result of the failure to protect these SACs.
This position was outlined to Minister Deenihan on his first day as Minster for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who took immediate action. This included the establishment of the Peatlands Council to bring all parties together, the hosting of a Peatlands Forum, significant engagement with the European Commission, the introduction of a compensation package including the delivery of turf to home, and the sourcing of alternative bogs where turf cutters can continue to cut legally.
Almost €3.5 million has now been spent on this compensation package, including annual payments of €1,500 per applicant or deliveries of turf to homes where turf cutters have taken this option. Further detail on these points is below.
Minister Deenihan has commented on the importance of protecting these habitats whilst also working with affected turf cutters to find a long term resolution to the issue:
“Special Areas of Conservation are legally protected under Irish and European law. Since becoming Minister, I have made it my priority to work with turf cutters, to enhance the compensation available to them, to have turf delivered to their homes, and to find relocation bogs where they can continue to harvest turf legally.
“I must also work to ensure that Ireland is not fined up to €25,000 per day for damage to conservation areas. That’s a fine the taxpayer cannot afford, especially at this time.
“Instead, I want to use the resources that are available to me to compensate turf cutters. We’re asking turf cutters on these bogs to accept the package, or relocate to a new bog, so that some of our remaining raised bogs can be preserved for future generations.
“I know it’s a big ask, but the majority of turf cutters have come with us and I thank them for that. I think the beneficiaries of this will be our children and their children who will still be able to visit and appreciate the wonderful habitat that is the bog in fifty or a hundred years time, unlike in much of the rest of Europe where these bogs have been cut away and lost forever.”
On the legacy issues concerning this matter, Minister Deenihan commented:
“In January 2011 the then Minister for Foreign Affairs received a formal letter from the European Commission. This letter noted that, due to a lack of action in enforcing the Habitats Directive, Ireland faced legal proceedings in the European Courts as a result of the failure to protect the SACs which were designated under the Habitats Directive, in some cases as long ago as 1997. This could have resulted in very large fines being imposed on Ireland.
“It was also made clear that Ireland was at risk of being injuncted in the European Courts on this issue unless immediate action was taken. This stark position was set out to me on my first day as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in March 2011. From this point, the course of action that was needed was clear – it was imperative that we uphold the law as it applies to these SACs whilst at the same time working to compensate or relocate the turf cutters which are affected by this law.”
Note to Editors:
• Financial compensation: Under the Cessation of Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme, affected turf cutters receive a total of €23,000 euro, index linked and tax free, over the course of the scheme. Applicants may also apply for relocation to a bog where they can continue cutting turf legally and, in the interim, can apply for a delivery of turf to their homes. Almost €3.5 million has been spent on the compensation scheme to date.
• Relocation: Of the total number of raised bog SACs, arrangements are at an advanced stage for turf cutters from four bogs to transfer to relocation bogs where they can continue to cut turf legally. Of the remaining 49 raised bogs, potential relocation sites have been identified for a further 31 bogs. Relocation is unlikely to be required, or will be small in scale, for the final 15 bogs due to the small number of turf cutters who are active on this sites.
• Planning for a Long Term Resolution: The Department is developing a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan, as called for by unanimous vote in Dáil Éireann and agreed with the European Commission, to underpin the long-term approach to restoration and management of each of the SACs. The review of the Natural Heritage Areas is also being progressed.