The Rural Ireland Organisation (RIO) has accused the government of using a health issue to justify the end of turf cutting, rather than talking about the value of bogs.
RIO leader, Gerry Loftus said turf should not be put into the same pollutant category as coal, claiming that the organisation has not seen research to confirm that they cause the same level of air pollution.
“The real culprits are big corporations which are not being penalised, while ordinary people are targeted with turf bans and extra carbon taxes, without any alternatives to fossil fuels being provided by the state,” according to the RIO.
In at least four different documents, Ireland has committed to the protection of its bogs at EU level, with the intention that this will become EU regulation by 2025, the RIO said. Loftus added:
“We must get recognition for farming activities, eco-system payments and turbary rights to be built into regulations, otherwise turf cutting will finish on all bogs in Ireland.”
The orgnisation is demanding that research takes place immediately to determine the value of Irish peatlands, and is warning farmers about entering this land type into the next environmental scheme.
Bogs and peat soils make up 3% of the world’s soil and absorb and store more carbon than all trees worldwide, according to the organisation.
The RIO said appropriate protection of peatlands has been agreed by Ireland as a condition to draw down payments in the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “This will have a massive effect on how lands in the west will be farmed going forward,” the orgnisation added.
However, the RIO claimed, CAP payments are conditional without safeguarding communities in turbary rights, farming activity and payment for ecological and climate mitigation services, including carbon storage.
Cost of Living Coalition
Meanwhile, the RIO has joined the recently formed Cost of Living Coalition which was launched outside Leinster House (Friday, May 6).
The organisation said it has secured the support of the coalition on the “constitutional right of turbary to cut turf in order to heat homes as well as support for local electricity supply”.
If local electricity supply was operational now, Loftus said, the need for turf would be greatly reduced and landowners would be allowed to be fully compensated to protect Ireland’s bogs.
The coalition is made up of Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, the RIO and nine other groups and organisations as well as other groups coming on board, according to Loftus.