Belfast Telegraph

Turf cutters get 15,000 euro payout

Turf cutters barred from taking peat from raised bogs are to receive maximum compensation of 15,000 euro.

Thirty-one sites in the West and Midlands were shut down last year, with local landowners barred from cutting fuel and offered 1,000 euro a year for the next 15 years.

But it is understood TDs are in talks with Europe to strike a deal to allow smallholders limited access on another 24 raised bogs facing closure.

Luke "Ming" Flanagan, Independent TD, vowed to back people who ignore the ban and continue to cut turf.

"The Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA) are making it quite clear that they think it is bad value for money," he said. "And if all turf cutters think they are going to get compensation, then they are very naive."

Mr Flanagan claimed 376 people out of 1,200 who sold bogland to the state under a previous special conservation scheme have yet to be paid.

The latest initiative to protect boglands designated special areas of conservation under European Union law was announced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Mr Flanagan said there was no mention of it at a meeting he held with the minister on Tuesday evening and he warned it could create a dispute as deep as Shell's Corrib gas project in Mayo.

"They are not on for consultation, they are on for ramming this down our throats," the Independent said. "And I can tell you, what happened down in Bellanaboy will be a teddy bears' picnic compared to this. The TCCA is not and has never been about compensation."

If the ban is not officially imposed, Europe could backdate fines 10 years and hit Ireland with a bill running to tens of millions of euro, plus daily fines of more than 20,000 euro, the Department of the Environment said.

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