Turf Cutting Banned in Ireland

Updated on June 12, 2020
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S.P. Greaney is a freelance writer who's interested in social and political issues that impact society today.

Bog after turf was cut
Bog after turf was cut | Source

In 1994, the Habitats Directive was introduced into Irish legislation. The initial aim of this directive was to encourage biodiversity within European Union member states and to ensure that natural habitats and fauna were protected.

Every six years, the government would need to submit reports to the European Union on how they were performing.

While the directive had many positive aspects to it, one factor within the directive that people opposed was the ban on turf cutting. This was introduced as certain raised and blanket bogs were nearly depleted in areas that were considered Special Areas of Conservation and National Heritage Sites.

By 1997, the government had started to implement some of the measures required by the European Union to help protect these Special Areas of Conservation and National Heritage Sites.

Progression Through the Years

By 2007, Ireland has made significant improvement in meeting standards set out in the Habitats Directive. Along with more surveys, they adopted a better approach in the method that they used to record data.

By 2013, when they released their next progress report, one area that had not seen any improvement at all was raised and blanket bogs. In this progression report it showed that Ireland were still behind in putting measure in place to start protecting these special areas of conservation and the outcome was recorded as ongoing decline.

Another report published in 2017, again confirmed that raised and blanket bogs were still continuing to decline. It also reported that there had been no further improvement made in any of this area. This meant that the future of these bogs were in serious trouble.

The Numbers

In 1997, there were 28 raised bogs considered special areas of conservation. By 2002 the number has risen to 53.

In 2013, there was 75 bogs listed within the Natural Heritage Areas were to see the ceasing of turf cutting on them.

...because Ireland is a member of the European Union, they are bound by the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive.

— Minister Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

The Bogs at Risk

Raised Bog

A raised bog it is a body of land that has the consistency of spongy watery land. For thousands of years layers and layers of decayed vegetation would build upon itself and with the right conditions, this land gradually turns into peat which is then cut into turf.

Blanket Bogs

For a blanket bogs to grow, it needs waterlogged land that continues to remain wet all the time. Peat grows on wet flat terrain or sometimes on land that has a gentle slope to it.

Why Do the European Union Want Turf Cutting to Cease

The reasons behind the European Union wanting Ireland to stop turf cutting are as follows.

  • They are worried that if turf cutting doesn't cease that the peat will never get a chance to regrow and it will lead to the eradication of the bogs over time.
  • The bogs are seen as a natural flood defenses.
  • Cutting turf in the bogs release carbon dioxide which is a green house gas which can contribute to climate change.
  • Certain protected mosses and species grow and live in these bogs and if the turf cutting continues, then they will be destroyed.

Raised bog in Ireland
Raised bog in Ireland | Source


In 1992, the "EU Habitats Directive" was introduced. Often referred to as The Habitats Directive the aim is to protect over 200 animal and plant species. Each member state is required to report on their state of affairs over a number of years to ensure that they are complying with the directive.

Hectares Under Discussion

Natural Peatland
Cutover Peatlands(affected by domestic turf cutting)
Malone S. and O’Connell C. 2009. Ireland’s Peatland Conservation Action Plan 2020 – Halting the Loss of Biodiversity. Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Lullymore.

How the Government Got Around the Ban

Initially turf cutting was to be banned immediately in 1999. But the Irish government got a derogation from the European Union which allowed them to apply the turf cutting ban in a manner that they felt would compliment their own legislation and not cause upset within the population of Ireland.

Over the next 10 years, different governments were in power and each one knew that they were under a time constraint to implement this ban on turf cutting in bogs considered special areas of conservation.

By 2011, the European Union had become frustrated with what they saw as Ireland lack of planning to stop turf cutting in bogs. They decided to implement fines of €25,000 if the Irish Government did not ban turf cutting at designated sites within the time-frame set out.


Turf cutters have being paid over €17.7 million under the Cessation of Cutting Compensation Scheme up to December 2016.

Source: The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) Management Plan 2017—2022

Compensation for Turf Cutters

The Irish government would now need to look at ways to compensate the people who owned bogs in these areas and who relied on turf cutting for their livelihood.

In 2011 the Turf Cutting Compensation scheme was introduced and turf cutters would be paid compensation for a number of years.

There were two types of schemes people could apply under.

  1. The Cessation of Turf Cutting in Special Areas of Conservation.
  2. The Cessation of Turf Cutting in Natural Heritage Areas.

The Cessation of Turf Cutting in Special Areas of Conservation


A payment of €1500 would be paid out for 15 years as well as a one of payment of €500.


  • The owner of the site must be the legal owner of the site or has the right to cut turf on this site.
  • From May 25th 2010, the owner of the bog should have the legal right to remove turf from specified site.
  • The legal owner should have being cutting turf on the bog for 5 years prior to May 25th 2010.
  • The site must still have some form of peat resources left within the site.
  • No cutting of turf on the site has occurred on it from January 1st 2010.

The Cessation of Turf Cutting in Natural Heritage Areas


A payment of €1521 would be paid for 15 years along with a one of payment of €550.


  • The owner of the site must be the legal owner of said bog or has the right to cut turf on the bog.
  • They must have the exclusive rights to remove turf from the site on May 25th 2010.
  • They had to have cut turf in the bog for 5 years prior to January 14th, 2014.
  • The bog must still have some form of peat resources left within the sit
  • They have ceased cutting turf on the site from date of application for compensation.

Once these conditions were met turf cutters would be compensated as seen fit.

Future of Bogs

In 2017, a new plan was implemented to ensure that bogs would still be protected into the future and get a chance to restore themselves. A fund of €5.4 million has been established to help with this restoration project.


From 2011 to 2016, €18 million euro has been spend by the government to protect and conserve raised bogs.

© 2011 Sp Greaney


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    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Mom In Gods Hands. I think us Irish people would love if it if it was not the case.

    • Mom In Gods Hands profile image


      5 years ago from Fort Myers

      My husband is from Cappincur and says this is spot on. :)

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Hi maggie, that's a very good point. It seems certain sectors are more vocal in voicing their opinion than others. It's good to see that they are still fighting for what they believe in and letting nothing stand in their way.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I notice there is no outrage in regards to environmental issues when the land is being excavated to put in a new football pitch, a shopping centre, a car park, cinema, ao another Bord Failte approved holiday home, B&B or yet another tourist connected venture but those who need to cut the turf to bring a warm comforting glow to our homes and the homes of our children are indeed a new band of criminals that will become the threat the idea of a totally dependant "New Society" Completely incomprehensible.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      @ rj, thanks for your comment. You're obviously well informed in your facts about this topic and I agree with what you say. Obviously the men in the 'offices' just want to do what they can to keep the EU people happy. At least people are standing their ground and taking action against the higher up people.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      there is 1.25 million of bog that has not ever been cut in Ireland

      then how come the NP&WS tell us that only 1% of our bog is in good

      shape with a 500 million euro budget thay should know it not the turf cutting that doing the harm as the none cut area are in a worse condition

      than were turf is being cut.

      before the famine there was 8 million people using turf for to heat there home and help grow there crops.

      now a days theres only a small percent of people do so

      the EU directive ask for 5% of bogland persavation not the 50% being

      implymented by all the public officie,s in Ireland this is jobs for the boys using taxpayer money. sending more people out of the country or on to the dole.

      the small amount of bog lost could be planted with renewable crops that

      are good for wild life and the planet BUT that would just be sensable Ireland won,t do sensable.

      this country needs

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      @ Perty, I think a 1/5 of our population is in your country :-). They are leaving here as quick as the planes are flying out.

    • Perty profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting! I have often wondered what turf was like, as it has been mentioned in many books I have read.

      A lot of the Irish people must be in Australia at the moment as I run into them all over Sydney.

      Great writing by the way.

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      @ shadowprancer, thanks for your comment. Lets just say Ireland is having a few problems at the moment. We are all hoping it will get better in a few year.

    • shadowprancer profile image


      8 years ago from Washington

      Very interesting topic. Thank you for informing me. I had heard about the problems with depleting the bogs, but I didn't know the full extent of the issue.


    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      9 years ago from Ireland

      @ Sushant Thankur, thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Sushant Thakur 

      9 years ago

      Just read your hub on traffup. It's an interesting and informative hub. Voting it up

    • sangre profile imageAUTHOR

      Sp Greaney 

      9 years ago from Ireland

      @ Karen Wodke, in the countryside piped natural gas is not available. It's either oil, coal or turf.

      People who have central heating still love to have an open fire and burn turf. It feels more homey.

    • Karen Wodke profile image

      Karen Wodke 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      This is fascinating! I just take my central heat and air for granted, I guess. Do they not use natural gas to heat their homes? I am intrigued.


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