Minister of State with responsibility for heritage Malcolm Noonan has being told that he “cannot wish alternatives to peat into being”.

Sinn Féin TD and agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy was responding to a parliamentary question he posed to the minister this week. The minister said that he had been given a report into peat harvesting around four weeks ago, but was yet to publish it.

This report, it now appears, calls for the resumption of peat harvesting in Ireland to supply growing media to the horticulture sector in the short term until alternatives can be found – rather than importing it in from eastern Europe.

Carthy called for the report to be “immediately published and acted upon”.

He said: “There are currently no alternatives to the use of peat for the horticulture sector. It now appears that the final report of the government-appointed group has confirmed as much.

“Government inaction and disinterest on this issue has created a crisis in the horticulture sector. Industries such as the mushroom sector will be lost to Ireland without urgent action,” the Cavan-Monaghan TD warned.

He argued that the importation of peat from Latvia, as witnessed in September, was “ludicrous”.

“The fact that Ireland needs to import more Latvian peat than would be required from domestic sources – as it is a less productive product – simply re-enforces that point.

“Minister Noonan cannot simply wish alternatives into being and he cannot sit on this report even if he does not like its findings. It will require time and resources to develop those alternatives, but government inaction is distracting from that objective,” Carthy stressed.

According to the Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson, the “current legislative framework is not conducive to the continued extraction of this critical horticulture substrate, meaning that new legislation is clearly required”.

“The implications of failing to act on this report’s finding are stark. The importation of peat will continue while thousands of jobs could be lost, particularly in the mushroom sector, resulting in the large scale importation of horticulture produce that could and should be produced in Ireland,” Carthy asserted.