Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (160)

Denis Naughten

Question:

160. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the consultation, if any, he has had with turf cutters or their representatives regarding the contract issued to them earlier this month; if he will confirm the identity of the third party who drafted the accompanying explanatory document; if he will redraft controversial aspects of the contract including the provision to revise the commitment to relocation post-2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26455/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

Under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, three types of legal agreements have been issued and are being issued by my Department. The first is a legal agreement for qualifying turf cutters who are signing up to the annual payment of €1,500, index-linked, for 15 years. The second is a relocation interim legal agreement for qualifying turf cutters who have expressed an interest in relocation but no relocation site is currently available for them to relocate to. This relocation interim legal agreement provides for the payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while these applicants are awaiting relocation to non-designated bogs. The third is a relocation final legal agreement. This agreement has been issued to qualifying turf cutters where a site has been assessed as suitable for relocation and is ready or can be made ready for use for domestic turf cutting.

Turf cutters who sign and return the applicable legal agreement to my Department will also receive a once-off incentive payment of €500. The legal agreements are modelled on those which have been agreed with groups of turf cutters from Clara Bog in County Offaly, and from Carrownagappul Bog and Curraghlehanagh Bog in County Galway. The explanatory document which accompanies the legal agreements was drafted by officials of my Department. The interim legal agreement is required in the case of relocation sites because, for the majority of raised bog special areas of conservation, the relocation site and the terms and conditions applicable to those sites will take time to finalise. Turf cutters are being asked to sign the interim agreement on the understanding that when a relocation site is sourced, assessed and agreed they will be asked to sign a final legal agreement at that time. If it is not possible to find a suitable relocation site, for example, for reasons of quality or quantity of turf, planning requirements, or issues in relation to the purchase or lease of a site, then the Department will consult with turf cutters as to the best option to take at that time.

For the avoidance of all doubt, it is the absolute aim of my Department to secure a relocation site for every person who has applied for one. That is what my officials are working to achieve, and progress is being made in that task. However, I feel it is important to be upfront with turf cutters and be clear that relocation is a complex process that does take some time to deliver. The agreements being issued reflect this reality. The interim agreement is designed to give all stakeholders the time to deliver relocation options that work for turf cutters. The clear directions that I have given my officials is to examine all relocation options with a view to securing alternative cutting locations for as many turf cutters within the shortest timeframe.