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Turf cutters reject 'progress' made in compensation scheme

Though over 2,600 applications have been received, turf cutters say the government has only addressed a small percentage of bog owners.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE TURF CUTTERS and Contractors Association (TCCA) has rejected comments by Minister Jimmy Dennihan on the progress that has been made in the compensation and relocation scheme.

Yesterday, Deenihan said that more than 2,600 applications for compensation had been received by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with over 2,000 payments issued and almost 200 deliveries of turf made to homes.

Total expenditure on the compensation package to date has reached almost €3.5 million and Deenihan said yesterday that he has made it his “priority to work with turf cutters, to enhance the compensation available to them, to have turf delivered to their homes, and to find relocation bogs where they can continue to harvest turf legally”.

“We have also agreed a process with the European Commission which holds out the prospect of additional flexibility in how we deal with that small number of difficult bogs where relocation may not be possible,” he said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Chairman of the TCCA Michael Fitzmaurice said that the government has made little progress in addressing the needs of turf cutters.

“If we look at the compensation, there are around 9,000 bog owners so 2,600 applications means there are barely 30 per cent sorted, they haven’t even half of the problem addressed,” he said. “With the relocation, the government hasn’t relocated anyone who was actively cutting turf to a new bog, there has been no relocation whatsoever.”

“Turf cutters are decent people,” he said. “The government is now trying to criminalise the turf cutting community and we’re left with no choice because of the inefficiency and incompetence of the department and the minister.”

The number of applications for the scheme increased significantly in 2012 but Fitzmaurice said many of the applicants were “intimidated and bullied into applying”.

Nationally, 53 raised bogs were nominated as SACs between 1997 and 2002, under the Habitats Directive signed by Ireland 21 years ago. These bogs make up about 2 per cent of peatlands where turf extraction is feasible.

Minister Deenihan said he knows that giving up a bog is a “big ask” but that “the beneficiaries of this will be our children and their children who will still be able to visit and appreciate the wonderful habitat that is the bog in fifty or a hundred years time”.

Related: Deenihan welcomes over 1,000 turf cutters’ compensation applications>

Related: 150 Galway turf-cutters in overnight stand-off with Gardaí>

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