Row over contracted cutting of turf on Bord na Mona land continues
Bord na Mona has been accused of hiding behind a court decision on peat cutting and bungling the Lough Boora bike hire contract.
Offaly Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen has issued a hard hitting statement this weekend after listening to a legal briefing from Bord na Mona on Friday.
The briefing with Midlands politicians focused on the impact of the 2019 High Court decision on peat extraction operations.
It followed a meeting with the same group of politicians and Bord na Mona last month.
Bord na Mona said the briefing outlined why turf cutting and other peat extraction without planning permission on the company's lands is illegal.
“In 2019, the High Court ruled that peat extraction operations, on bogs over 30 hectares, requires planning permission. All peat extraction operations that contravene this ruling are illegal,” said a Bord na Mona spokesperson.
The company said one of the key points in the briefing was that Bord na Mona’s own peat harvesting operations were halted this year.
“In parallel with this, Bord na Mona has migrated 350 employees from peat harvesting to the Peatlands Climate Action Scheme. This scheme will secure a 100 million tonne carbon store, sequester millions more tonnes of carbon and develop the amenity potential of our lands,” said the spokesperson.
“Fortunately, the vast majority, 1600 people, who have cut turf on Bord na Mona lands are turbary rights holders. They continue to enjoy the same rights as before the High Court ruling.
“Following the High Court ruling it is illegal for the approximately 30 industrial peat contractors to extract peat under licence on Bord na Mona lands as before.
“The company is engaging with stakeholders on the particular issues arising from the High Court ruling.”
Deputy Cowen claimed that Bord na Mona “responded negatively” to Dail deputies' proposals to resolve the turf cutting impasse “on lands previously leased under license to households in our respective areas”.
“It would appear it'll be political interference only that'll resolve the cutting issue as Bord na Mona have aligned themselves squarely with the court decision,” said Deputy Cowen.
He claimed that “household cutters” were being targeted and added: “The exemption to planning originally in place for Bord na Mona was a blanket exemption applied to all their lands, inclusive of industrial, commercial and some extraction for home heating on 1% of their land holding.
“The case and decision of the courts specifically stated the exemption and statutory instrument was illegal in the case of 'Industrial' extraction. Therefore it is my firm contention that were Bord na Mona to lease those lands originally leased under license... to a series of cooperatives across various limited bogs used for such purposes (where members cut for own use), the terms of lease would/could be a fixed three/five year term allowing adequate period for transition away from such fuels, allied to government incentives, initiatives and grants.
“That would be a just transition, a fair and reasonable solution. Hiding behind the court decision as an excuse to do nothing and throw these people over the cliff rather than properly interpreting the court's decision is an abdication of responsibility and an abject failure.
“Further to my contribution in the Dail on the climate change bill, where I outlined my disappointment, frustration and no little anger at the ridiculously slow, poorly administered and apparent inept governance, leadership and delivery of the just transition programme, the Taoiseach has agreed to accommodate an urgent meeting with he, Minister Ryan, Kieran Mulvey and I.
“Yesterday's meeting, the bungling of a bike hire contract where a local and much loved provider was sidelined, has only served as a stark reminder of the need for such a sudden and transformative meeting.”
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