Turf war - Offaly's new Ministers clash on Bord na Mona harvest

“Ultimately we're moving away from fossil fuels. I'm not saying it's next year or whatever, but it's going to happen."

Gearoid Keegan


Gearoid Keegan

Turf war - Offaly's new Ministers clash on Bord na Mona harvest

The closure of the ESB power station in Shannonbridge will reduce demand for Bord na Mona peat

DIFFERENCES have already emerged between Offaly's two newly appointed ministers on the key issue of Bord na Mona's peat harvest.

Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen has said the question of whether harvesting will resume next year hinges on the planning application while Minister of State Pippa Hackett has stated she does not think the company will be returning to its core activity.

Minister Cowen, Fianna Fail, said there is nothing in the programme for government which “outlaws” Bord na Mona harvesting peat.

“There's an initial application ongoing and (harvesting) is not finished until that process runs its course.

“In the event of that being awarded there will be a harvest and that harvest is required to supplement stocks to provide for Edenderry and Derrinlough, dual powered generation beyond 2023 in Edenderry if that is the case.

“The application is ongoing. The legal advice to stop was based on legal opinion saying that you couldn't continue to harvest when the application process, the licensing application was ongoing.”

Contradictory legal advice had been received on the issue, he said.

Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of bogland, which was announced by the previous Government will take place once the funding is brought forward.

“That too I would hope and expect will be complimented by further rewetting initiatives on lands on the perimeter and border of the same boglands.”

Minister Hackett, Green Party, said she believed Bord na Mona has stopped peat harvesting for good.

“I think so. I couldn't see them going back,” she told the Tullamore Tribune.

She is aware of the argument to continue harvesting to feed the demand for briquette production but existing stocks may meet that.

“But that all has to fit in well and tightly with the just transition proposals and you can't really leave people without fuel.

“That's where we really have to get a move-on in terms of those retrofits especially for social homes and people on social welfare.

“There will be the carbon tax (revenue) for that and many of them are dependent on turf or coal to burn. There has to be a good balance there.

“It would be good to see it starting sooner rather than later in terms of the retrofit programme.”

She added: “Ultimately we're moving away from fossil fuels. I'm not saying it's next year or whatever, but it's going to happen.

“That's just not the future of heating our homes. We're going to be heating our homes with electricity and ultimately that electricity is going to be derived from renewable sources.”

The new minister for land use said people were continuing to rely on private turf cutting because it is their traditional fuel.

However she repeated her view that cleaner air will save the State money once solid fuel is phased out.

“I know I got in the soup for saying it about the air in Edenderry but that's an issue that people just do ignore.

“I don't want to get in the soup again but that's a fact. It costs our State billions each year treating people with diseases from air quality.”

See this week's Tullamore Tribune and Midland Tribune for interviews with Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Barry Cowen and Land Use and Biodiversity Minister of State, Pippa Hackett.