Thursday, 12 December 2019

Ceisteanna (14)

Denis Naughten


14. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for the rehabilitation of bogs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (4 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Culture)

The Minister visited the midlands recently with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton. One of the issues raised directly with her by union representatives, as well as by myself, Deputy Eugene Murphy and others, was the need to ensure local staff will be involved in any work on the rehabilitation of bogs. Will the Minister update me on what progress has been made to ensure that those staff losing their jobs in Bord na Móna will be involved in the rehabilitation of the bogs?

A key element of the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and published by my Department in December 2017, is to maintain active raised bog habitat and restore degraded raised bog habitat to active raised bog habitat. The national restoration programme for Ireland's raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this plan. It was intended to restore all designated raised bogs within three cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the management plan.

This programme can now be accelerated due to the announcement in budget 2020 of €5 million for peatlands restoration. This funding will allow for restoration measures to be undertaken on approximately 1,800 ha in 2020 on up to nine raised bog designated sites across seven counties and the installation of an eddy covariance flux tower on a representative bog to directly observe the exchanges of gas, energy, and momentum between the ecosystem and the atmosphere. The flux tower will directly measure the carbon, water, and heat flows between plant communities and the atmosphere.

Some 23 other raised bog designated sites have been identified for restoration works over the next number of years under the programme. Restoration plans for each of the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation have been drafted to be developed further in partnership with stakeholders including landowners and local communities. Site-specific restorations plans for the raised bog natural heritage areas are currently being developed by the Department using the most up-to-date scientific methodologies available and best practice models gained from other restoration projects.

I was in the midlands on 11 November, as was said earlier. We hope there will be 100 jobs created there. This has gone out to tender. There will be jobs like tree felling and scrub clearance, as well as for machine operators, engineers, hydrologists, ecologists and dam installers. Some of these are non-technical jobs for people who are not trained in those areas.

The announcement made regarding the closure of the two peat-fired power stations in the midlands is the equivalent of Google shutting up shop in Dublin. That shows the scale of the impact on the economy locally. We need assurance that we can create jobs locally in bog rehabilitation. I need an assurance from the Government that this will be made a priority and we will not see these jobs coming from other parts of the country.

Obviously, we cannot say if some of the workers can work for the National Parks and Wildlife Service on bog rehabilitation as the tender has not been completed yet. The contract for peatlands work will need to be awarded following a competitive tender process to be managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. There are a number of jobs there and Bord na Móna will need to apply like any other party. We hope it will be in a position to do so and that it will be successful in its application.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.