The Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has come in for criticism from a TD in the west of the country due to the delay in issuing payments under the Turf Cutting Cessation Scheme.
Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway Michael Fitzmaurice highlighted that numerous constituents have been in contact with his office to highlight the matter.
Fitzmaurice questioned whether the overspend on the National Children’s Hospital has negatively impacted on the ability of other departments to issue payments on time.
“When the cessation scheme was introduced, those in Government encouraged people to sign up for compensation while they waited to be relocated to another plot if one became available.
This year, my office has been inundated with calls from people who are still waiting on payments, despite them being issued in May or June in earlier years.
“There seems to be a complete breakdown in the distribution of the annual compensation to families.
“We now find ourselves in August and people who sourced their fuel earlier in the year are still waiting to receive their annual allowance.”
The TD raised concerns that the National Children’s Hospital overspend significantly curtailed the ability of other departments to ensure payments are issued on time.
Continuing, Fitzmaurice added: “From what I understand, people who are owed compensation for a number of years are being told that there isn’t a budget there at the moment to pay them and that they will have to wait until after Christmas at the earliest to get what’s owed to them.
I fear that the overspend in the National Children’s Hospital has led to all departments being told that they have to withhold some payments in an effort to balance the books.
Deputy Fitzmaurice stressed that it is “completely wrong” if other departments have been asked to withhold payments from people who are entitled to them because of a “fiasco that could have been avoided through better management”.
He claimed that a number of people eligible for the cessation payment were promised that they would be taken care of as their applications had been approved for payment in recent weeks – but no payment has been made.
“Given that we are eight or nine years into this scheme, it is incredulous that these payments are being delayed.”
The TD warned that, in spite of promises when a scheme is announced, commitments are “regularly reneged on” as years pass by.
Minister Josepha Madigan needs to take action and give the go-ahead for the backlog of payments to be issued as soon as possible.
“People who are owed for a few years should not have to wait until after Christmas either.
“This debacle is just further evidence of how budgets are managed in this country,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.