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New turf regulations welcomed

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STILL A BURNING ISSUE A demonstration against the goverment’s turf-cutting regulations took place at the official opening of Ballycroy National Park by Green Party Minister John Gormley back in April 2010.

Anton McNulty

FORMER Minister Michael Ring has welcomed the agreement on turf cutting which will allow those with turbury rights to cut, burn, share and sell turf.
The new regulations on turf cutting, which were agreed by the Government parties, will allow people to sell turf or to gift it to others. However, turf sales cannot be advertised and it cannot be sold in retail settings.
There had been fears in rural Ireland that the Solid Fuel Regulations – which aim to bring an end to the sale of smoky coal – were to be extended to turf.
Mayo TD Michael Ring welcomed the revised regulations, saying that the Government had found a reasonable solution on the issue of turf.
“I am pleased that the revised regulations will protect traditional turf-cutting practices and allow those who have traditionally cut, shared and sold turf to continue to do so. This is so important to many communities in Mayo.
“I do recognise the effect of poor air quality on people’s health and wellbeing, and I welcome the role these regulations will play in helping to improve air quality and public health.
“However, we must make sure we are not stopping customs that date back centuries, when people do not have other alternatives,” he said.

Restriction removed
The revised regulations allow those with turbary rights and all ‘customary rights’ to cut, burn, share and sell turf, as long as it is not sold in a retail setting, public place, through media or online.
“There is no ban on burning turf by anyone in the country,” Deputy Ring reiterated. “The previously mooted restriction on use only in towns or villages of population of 500 has also been removed.
“I’m glad we could come to this agreement with our Government partners. We’re confident this solution will protect and extend the current smoky coal ban, while allowing for traditional practices to continue.”

‘Huge changes’
Gerry Loftus, the leader of the Rural Ireland Organisation also gave a cautious welcome to the new regulations, saying he believes pressure from ‘grassroots Ireland’ paid off. He also voiced his concern as to how the regulations will be policed, however.
“It’s quite possible people wanting to cut turf may be asked to produce the folio number identifying ownership of the plot of bog, but how this will play out is unclear at this time,” he said.
Mr Loftus added the people of Ireland are being kept in the dark on the future of Ireland’s peatlands, saying he believes this will be the ‘next big battle’.
“A new EU regulation regarding the protection of Ireland bogs will possibly be introduced in 2024/2025. We must get included in the wording recognition of turbary rights and our farming activity. The challenge here is, how do we farm these peatlands, exercise our right to cut turf, while at the same time protect peat soils in a way accepted by the EU?
“Ireland has agreed to the protection of our peat soils in the peatland strategy, in the Climate Plan for the country. Ireland has also agreed that as a condition of payment in the up and coming CAP, peatlands must be appropriately protected. This will demand huge changes on how we farm our hills and all peat soils,” he said.

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