We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


Ireland set to defend itself in case over failure to protect peat bogs from turf cutting

Ireland has been referred to the EU’s Court of Justice over the issue.

AN TAOISEACH LEO Varadkar has said that Ireland will defend itself after the European Commission referred the State to the EU’s Court of Justice over a failure to protect peat bogs from turf cutting.

The European Commission yesterday said Ireland has “failed to apply the Habitats Directive to protect sites designated for raised bog and blanket bog habitats from turf cutting”.

It said that that it doesn’t deem Irish efforts aimed at protecting and restoring its bogs have been sufficient to date, and that it is therefore referring Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Habitats Directive aims to protect over a thousand species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish invertebrates, and plants, and habitat types. The Directive requires EU member states to protect natural habitats from harmful activities.

Peat bogs are a biodiversity hotspot which host important insect and bird species and are categorised as “priority” habitats under the Directive. The European Commission noted that peat bogs are “vital” carbon sinks, meaning it absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases.

The European Union said peat bogs in Ireland “continue to be degraded through drainage and turf cutting activities” and added that “insufficient action is being taken to restore the sites”. 

Commenting on the case today in Washington DC, Varadkar said that he believed that what Ireland had done to date “is adequate and complies with European law”.

“My understanding from from the department is that we’re going to defend that case. That we believe that what we’ve done to date is adequate and complies with European law,” he said.

So no plans for new restrictions. We are defending our position.

Also commenting today, Irish MEP Luke Flanagan criticised the taking of the case, saying that it could derail years of work. 

Flanagan – whose family is one of eight that cuts turf in Cloonchambers bog near Castlerea – said in a statement that while progress in protecting peat bogs had initially been slow, “now turf cutters were engaging”.

“For example in the bog where I cut all 28 turf cutters are willing to relocate to another bog,” he said.

“Something which was not easy to agree on but we did. All we are waiting for now is for the state to develop the turf banks in the relocation bog.”

This is not and never was going to be a quick process. However it is a process and I don’t see how a court case is going to make it happen any quicker.

Yesterday, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage also defended its progress.

A spokesperson said the State has invested significantly in the conservation and restoration of peatlands since 2011 and “additional progress” has been achieved with relevant stakeholders. 

With reporting from Diarmuid Pepper and Muiris O’Cearbhaill 

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.