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Timeline of the Turf Cutting Ban in Ireland

S.P. Greaney is a freelance writer who's interested in social and political issues that impact society today.

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 had 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 measures 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 these areas. This meant that the future of these bogs was in serious trouble.

The Numbers

  • In 1997, there were 28 raised bogs considered special areas of conservation. By 2002 the number had risen to 53.
  • In 2013, there were 75 bogs listed within the Natural Heritage Areas where turf cutting needed to cease.

The Bogs at Risk

Two main types of bogs are 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 bog 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.

. . . 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

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.

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  • 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 greenhouse 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.

Hectares Under Discussion

Malone S. and O’Connell C. 2009. Ireland’s Peatland Conservation Action Plan 2020 – Halting the Loss of Biodiversity. Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Lullymore.

CategoryHectors

Natural Peatland

269,270ha

Cutover Peatlands (affected by domestic turf cutting)

612,380ha

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's 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 timeframe set out.

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

Compensation

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

Conditions

  • 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

Compensation

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

Conditions

  • 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 was established to help with this restoration project.

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service's Peat Council provide the latest information about this ongoing project.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Sp Greaney

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