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Turf Cutting

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 26 May 2021

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Questions (124)

Jennifer Whitmore


124. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the planed measures being taken to prevent turf cutting on raised bogs in 2021 which are designated as special areas of conservation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28439/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

As the Deputy will appreciate, for reasons of operational security, my Department would not usually provide specific details in respect of planned enforcement activities. In general terms, officials of my Department routinely carry out scientific research, survey work and monitor compliance with national and European law in relation to nature conservation across the country. They conduct patrols and site visits to enforce the various provisions of national and EU legislation, as required, and many of these officers carry out work in more than one county. They also investigate reports of breaches of legislation including those related to turf cutting.

Ireland, like all EU Member States, is bound by the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. These Directives aim to ensure the protection of habitats and species which have been selected for conservation within special areas of conservation and special protection areas. Ireland's approach is to recognise the traditional right to cut turf for domestic purposes, while balancing this with our obligations under the Habitats Directive. This balanced approach is based on a respect for and understanding of that tradition, and has been carefully nurtured to build trust and work with stakeholders to save the natural heritage of Ireland's bogs.

Significant efforts have been made by the State and by turf-cutters to resolve the issue of the protection of Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas within the framework of the Habitats Directive. This has included the establishment of the Peatlands Council, intensive and on-going engagement with turf cutting interests, the farming community, non-governmental organisations and with the European Commission, as well as the establishment of a long-term compensation scheme for affected turf cutters.

The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017–2022 sets out how the raised bog special areas of conservation are to be managed, conserved and restored and how the needs of turf cutters are to be addressed. This plan, as well as the National Peatlands Strategy, recognizes that domestic turf cutters have a traditional right to cut turf and that this right is balanced with the conservation objectives for designated raised bogs and the legal obligations on the State.