Peat harvesting should be protected cultural practice - Offaly TD
Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has reiterated her call for traditional peat harvesting to be recognised as a cultural practice protected by domestic and EU law.
Deputy Nolan was speaking after she questioned officials from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage during a Joint Committee on Agriculture debate on the rewetting of peatland and the impact on drainage for surrounding farmland:
“In April I wrote to Minister for Culture, Catherine Martin asking her to examine the possibility of recognising peat harvesting as a protected cultural practice. Unfortunately, the Minister’s office has been less than helpful in term of its engagement on this matter.
"However, when I raised the matter with the officials from the Department of Heritage, there was a welcome openness to the suggestion and a positive sense that it was certainly an idea worth exploring.
"The Department also made it known that the Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan was currently engaged in a two-month public consultation on the mid-term review of the National Peatlands Strategy.
"This same Strategy explicitly recognises that turf cutting by citizens for their own domestic fuel needs is “a valued traditional activity across many peatlands.”
"What I am suggesting is that there is, within that recognition, clear scope for turf cutting to become a protected cultural practice.
"As I made clear to the officials from the Department, we must find a way to end the creeping criminalisation of turf cutting, because effectively this is what is happening.
"It is being seen more and more as a some kind of ecological crime instead of a valued traditional practice worth protecting for future generations.
"The review of the National Peatland Strategy should accept that view as part of the consultation process,” concluded Deputy Nolan.
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