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.
Significant efforts have been made by the State to resolve the issue of the protection of Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation within the framework of the Habitats Directive. This has included intense 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, including relocation where feasible, for affected turf cutters.
13,446 annual payments and 994 deliveries of turf have been made in respect of applications received under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme for raised bog special areas of conservation. 737 annual payments and a delivery of turf have been made to applicants from raised bog natural heritage areas under the scheme. In addition, 1,824 once-off incentive payments of €500 have been made, of which 42 relate to natural heritage areas.
Relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs is a complex process. Notwithstanding this, progress in relocation has been achieved in a number of cases. In addition, my
Department is moving forward in the relocation process for 8 relocation sites.
The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, published in December 2017, 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, including exploring the options in terms of certain provisions of article 6 of the Habitats Directive.
Final resolution of all issues in relation to the protection of Ireland’s protected raised bogs will only be brought about by everyone working together, within the law, with my Department and with the Peatlands Council, which was established for the purpose of ensuring the input from all stakeholders.