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Over €46,000 spent on surveillance of bogs for illegal turf cutting this year

TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan suggested that if planes are going to be flying over the bogs so frequently, “maybe they could bring our turf home for us”.

Image: bog image via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS spent over €46,000 on surveillance for protected bogs to check for illegal turf cutting, according to figures released by Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

Following a parlimentary question from TD John McGuinness, Deenihan said his department incurred costs of €34, 422 in 2012 and €46, 243 this year for the hire of private aircraft, for aerial monitoring of activity on raised bogs that are considered Special Areas of Conservation.

This surveillance is carried out on bogs where there is a requirement to cease turf cutting, with surveyers looking to see if the bog has been cut.

Deenihan said that private aircraft are only used when the Air Corps is not in a position to undertake these flights.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and Local Government told TheJournal.ie that a total of 69 monitoring flights were undertaken this year. Thirty of these were performed by the Air Corps and the balance by the National Flight Centre.

“Aerial monitoring is used to assess Special Areas of Conservation as it is the quickest and most efficient way for parks and wildlife personnel to assess a large number of habitats in the shortest time,” a spokesperson said. “A relatively short flight can pass over a number of sites that – by car and on foot – would take a much longer time to assess.”

In his reponse to McGuinness’ question, Deenihan also said:

It should be remembered that Ireland is at risk of action before the European Court of Justice if these Special Areas of Conservation, which are protected under Irish and European law, are not preserved. Ireland also risks daily fines of up to €25, 000 for failure to uphold its obligations under European law.

Responding to the minister’s comments, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan told TheJournal.ie that “if they’re going to be flying around for that long, maybe they could bring our turf home for us”.

“It’s going on a lot, people have got used to having helicopters and planes flying over but some might say the money would be better spent on helping rural Ireland,” he said.

When it was suggested to the deputy that people might blame turf cutters for these costs, Flanagan said that “people can make up their own mind on that”.

“But turf cutters, as an olive branch and solution, have moved out of 98 per cent of these bogs and all we need is 2 per cent – if that isn’t a compromise then I don’t know what it”.

Flanagan criticised the minister’s efforts in working with turf cutters on the issue with less than 1,000 of them out of almost 9,000 turbary rights owners having signed final agreements for compensation.

Read: Last year’s poor peat harvest cost Bord Na Móna over €23m>
Read: Turf cutters ‘annoyed’ by wording in compensation agreement>

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