Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Over Ä140,000 has now been paid to turf-cutters on bogs that are, in whole or in part, located in County Meath under the Cessation of Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme, according to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan.
Close to 160 applications were received from turf-cutters on these bogs, the majority of which are for financial compensation. The bogs affected are Moneybeg and Clareisland bog and Mount Hevey bog, all on the Meath/Westmeath border.
Nationally, a total of 53 raised bogs - comprising approximately two per cent of the sites from which peat can be harvested - have been nominated for designation as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Two of these sites are wholly or partly in Meath. The 53 raised bogs were nominated as SACs between 10 and 15 years ago under the Habitats Directive, originally signed by Ireland in 1992.
In May 2010, the then government decided that turf-cutting on these bogs would come to an end. In January 2011, the government received a formal letter from the European Commission noting that Ireland faced legal proceedings in the European Courts as a result of the failure to protect these SACs.
These SACs are protected by Irish and European law. Since taking office, Minister Deenihan said he had made it a priority to work with affected turf-cutters so that these bogs - which are unique in Europe and preserve a wealth of plant and wildlife - can be protected while also providing affected turf-cutters with either financial compensation or, where feasible, an alternative location where they can continue to cut turf legally.
Those opting for relocation can avail of the financial payment or a delivery of turf to their homes in the interim.
Of the total number of raised bog SACs, arrangements are at an advanced stage for turf-cutters from four bogs to transfer to relocation bogs where they can continue to cut turf legally. Of the remaining 49 raised bogs, potential relocation sites have been identified for a further 31 bogs.
Relocation is unlikely to be required, or will be small in scale, for a further 15 bogs due, for example, to the small number of turf-cutters who have been active on these sites. Potential relocation sites are being considered for two bogs located wholly or partly in County Meath. Six deliveries of turf have also been made in Meath under the Cessation of Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme.