‘Absolute nonsense’ to have reliance on imported peat – Hackett

“It is a bit of an absolute nonsense, in one sense, for people to have to rely on imported peat,” according to Minister Pippa Hackett.

Last month, Bord na Móna announced that it has permanently ended all peat harvesting on its land. It said, at the time, that it still has reserves for briquettes up to 2024 and horticultural peat customers will have supply up until the summer at least.

However, peat is now being imported for horticultural use. Minister Hackett told AgriLand this week that peat harvesting in this country must cease in all its forms – “but we have to support the sectors that need peat”.

Minister Hackett noted that Minister of State Malcolm Noonan, who has responsibility for heritage, is setting up a working group to look specifically at the future of horticultural peat.

The government will have representation on that, along with the horticultural industry, and Minister Hackett hopes the group will start up “very soon”.

‘We don’t have all of those answers just yet’

Aside from horticultural use, the Green Party senator has also emphasised that “we can’t just plummet people into not having any fuel for their homes”.

She said she understands that not everyone can afford greener heating solutions for their homes.

“We know that the time for peat extraction is essentially over,” she said.

“We have to look at alternatives for people who burn peat in the short and medium term, because we can’t just plummet people into not having any fuel for their homes – that has to be looked at more carefully.

When we do talk a lot about just transition and retrofitting, I fully appreciate that not everyone can afford to retrofit their home, and if you live on a low income, you’re in a very difficult position.

“That certainly needs more thought. This government has, so far, invested quite heavily in the value of rehabilitation of peatlands, we hope to bring many 100s of jobs and keep 100s of jobs in the midlands for that particular purpose.

“That whole retraining point with retrofitting will begin in the midlands, we made that commitment – that particular area is the most dependent upon fossil fuels, peat mainly.

“I think there does need to be more engagement, dialogue and discussion on how we transition to a future without peat. We don’t have all of those answers just yet, but we are open and absolutely willing to listen to suggestions.”

Oireachtas Committee to scrutinise BnM blanket ban decision

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine is to spend the next two weeks scrutinising the Bord na Móna decision to impose a blanket ban on the production of peat in Ireland.

Committee chairman, Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill, confirmed that the committee will call stakeholders affected by this decision over the coming weeks, including Bord na Móna, to appear in front of the committee.

Discussions will focus on the impact of the cessation of peat production on the horticulture, mushroom growing and nursery industries, among others.