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25 Jan 2022

Offaly councillor writes to Leo Varadkar over turf cutting row

Offaly councillor writes to Leo Varadkar over turf cutting row

Offaly councillor calls for financial aid for those denied turf cutting rights

Fine Gael councillor Noel Cribbin has written to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and other senior Government Ministers, demanding immediate action following the letters sent to hundreds of people in the Midlands last week, outlining that the centuries-old tradition of turf cutting is to cease on Bord na Mona lands.

The letter from Bord na Mona outlined that turf cutters would not be allowed to save peat on bogs where they had previously been licensed to do so.

According to Cllr Cribbin, the decision has been taken with little regard for the turf cutters and a lack of planning to ensure they have access to an alternative source of fuel to heat their homes.

He said: "Bord Na Mona issued hundreds of letters this week to turf savers informing them that their lifetime tradition of saving turf on BNM lands was finished permanently from last week. The one-page letter has brought to an abrupt end this tradition, not to mention the only means many people use for heating their homes.

"In my area of Edenderry and North Offaly, many of the turf savers have Turbary Rights which come with the deeds of their properties, and I will be taking this issue up directly with Bord na Mona."

He went on to say that there is an understanding amongst the general public that the cessation of peat harvesting is necessary. However, Cllr Cribbin feels the manner in which it is being undertaken does not take into account the dependence of many households in the Midlands on turf cutting, nor provide for an alternative, affordable means for people to heat their homes. That is why he made the decision to contact the Tánaiste and other members of Government, seeking financial assistance for those impacted.

He continued: "The very least that should be done is to transition these householders over an extended period of time. Many of the people affected by this action by BNM are elderly and are being told at this stage of their lives to remove their solid fuel ranges and stoves and replace them with pellet stoves, gas or electric.

"All these changes come with a financial cost in the region of six or seven thousand Euros depending on the size of the homes. This is grossly unfair and unjust to expect our elderly to have to pay out that kind of money through no fault of their own. In the same way that car owners are provided with a grant or subsidy to go electric, those affected by this decision should receive a substantial grant to change over from solid fuel to a new and alternative way to heat their homes."

Cllr Cribbin also criticised the timing of the letter saying, "This is the time of the year when the turf is cut for next winter leaving people with only a few months to get the money and the work done to ensure they have a good and reliable way of heating their homes for next winter.

"While we all recognise this change is necessary, to expect hundreds of householders to have to change their lifelong tradition of burning peat overnight is totally unfair. I am urging senior Government to provide financial assistance to those that have to change over to new heating systems. Time is short and such a scheme needs to be developed and announced as a matter of urgency."

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