The Government has announced details of a compensation package for turf-cutters in sites where continued turf-cutting is no longer possible for reasons of environmental protection. This follows the establishment of an independent Peatlands Council, as one of a number of decisions that the Government has made regarding the future management of peatlands in Ireland and, in particular, the protection of bogs designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs).
These decisions aim to respond in a strategic way to the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive which require Ireland to protect and conserve important peatland habitats.
The compensation scheme will apply immediately to turf-cutters on 31 raised bog SACs nominated for designation between 1997 and 1999. The effective cessation of turf-cutting on these sites was confirmed by a decision of the previous Government in May 2010 and had immediate effect. Similar measures will apply for a further 24 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation from the end of 2011.
The scheme offers those who had been active turf cutters in these SACs, but who cannot now continue to cut turf, a package that will deliver payments of Eur1,000 per annum for a maximum of 15 years. As an alternative to financial payments, and where feasible, qualifying turf cutters will be facilitated in relocating to alternative, non-designated sites to continue cutting turf. A pilot project is currently under consideration by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Bord na Mona and turf-cutters on Clara Bog in County Offaly. Should this prove successful it may be used as a template in other locations.