The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D. and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., have announced that they have obtained the support of the European Commission for the Government’s intention to prepare a national plan for Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) raised bogs.
The drafting of a national plan is intended to allow solutions for turf-cutters within each of the 53 raised bog sites to be explored in detail. In addition, where alternative solutions can be shown not to exist, the process may allow for consideration of eventually allowing limited turf cutting within a small number of the 53 raised bog SACs in Ireland.
The Ministers have asked all interest groups to join with the Government and the Peatlands Council in drawing up the national plan.
This announcement follows on from the submission by Mr Justice Quirke to the Government of his report on the Peatlands Forum, which was in session from 28 February – 2 March, 2012. Its primary objective was to address the concerns of communities, associations, organisations, State Bodies and individuals who have been or will be affected by the restrictions on turf cutting imposed by the Habitats Directive on Ireland’s 53 raised bog SACs. Mr Justice Quirke made 10 conclusions and recommendations in his report, which has been published on the website of the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. He noted that the rights enjoyed by the turf cutting communities are complex in nature, varied and often difficult to define. He was also of the view that it was not the function of the Forum to adjudicate upon such questions or to express any views on the various matters raised. He concluded that the difficulties must be resolved by engagement, discussion and mutual accommodation between the interested parties and the active participation of the European Commission. The recent announcement by the two Ministers referred to above seems to go some way along the road of achieving this participation by the European Commission.
A copy of the Quirke Report is available here.
A copy of the announcement by the two Ministers is available here.