Peatlands cover approximately 20% of the State’s land area and their use has implications across a wide spectrum of public policy. Intact peatlands produce an array of nature generated benefits to society known as eco-system services. These services provided by peatlands include water retention, which can reduce flooding, water filtration and supply, climate regulation via carbon storage and cultural benefits. Bogs are, of course, an important habitat in their own right and an important breeding ground for many species including highly threatened species such as the curlew.
The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and 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. The national restoration programme for Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this Plan. It is intended to restore all designated raised bogs within 3 cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the Management Plan.
Bord Na Móna is a commercial State body, which I understand is transitioning from its original remit to develop the peat resource in parts of Ireland to more renewable and sustainable businesses. It has recognised the importance of peatlands conservation for many years. I understand that Bord na Móna has earmarked for conservation a considerable amount of degraded raised bog capable of regeneration and for the necessary restoration works to reverse the impacts of drainage. Bord Na Móna is under the remit of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I have no direct role in its functions.
My Department has been asked to provide observations on a number of rehabilitation plans produced by Bord Na Móna for a selection of raised bog sites, given its expertise and experience in the field of the restoration of raised bogs in Ireland. However, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I have no statutory function in this regard and observations are provided in an advisory capacity only.
My Department will continue to liaise with representatives from Bord Na Móna regarding the implementation of the National Peatlands Strategy and the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022 and the contribution rehabilitation efforts undertaken by Bord na Móna within its estate will make to national conservation targets for Ireland’s raised bogs.