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Opinion: This is a bog grab

RIO (Rural Ireland Organisation) has accused the government of the cynical use of health issues to ban turf cutting. Gerry Loftus shares his views.

The government is cynically using a health issue to ban the sale of turf. While we do not object to the banning of smokie coal, the government should not put dry timber and turf into the same pollutant category as smokie coal as we have not seen research to confirm this.

The government, playing the health card, about 1,300 lives lost each year because of air quality is cynical, to say the least.

This is given that the real culprits are big corporations who are not being penalised while the government is targeting ordinary people with turfs bans and extra carbon taxes without any alternatives to fossil fuels being provided by the state.

The evidence shows that 60% of Irish people are obese, 9000 people die of cancer each year and 10,000 die from heart disease.

Yet, there is little or outcry about these startling figures caused in large part by an industrial food production system and increased stress levels in modern capitalist society.

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Protecting Irish bogs In at least four different documents, Ireland has committed at EU level to the protection of Ireland’s bogs.

The intention is that this will become EU regulation by 2025.

3% of the soil in the world is bog or peat soils. It absorbs and stores more carbon than all the trees in the world.

Bog grab 

Gold cannot do what Ireland bogs can do for carbon emissions for this country, as the reality here is that this is a bog grab!

Government parties are pulling the wool over people’s eyes here by using a health issue to justify the ending of turf cutting.

They are using a health issue rather than talking about bog in the context of its value because by recognising its value, the state would have to pay the landowners.

It is a politically dishonest and morally bankrupt government strategy to refuse to recognise the value of Irish peatlands so that the state is not obliged to pay for its upkeep by farmers in the west.

Land values 

Our hills and bogs were the forgotten sectors of successive governments until now.

Teagasc, as we understand it, has not undertaken one shred of research to determine the real value of these lands.

Ireland has agreed appropriate protection of peatlands as a condition to draw down payments in the next CAP.

This will have a massive impact on how those with lands in the west will farm going forward.

Yet, incredibly, farming organisations, civil servants and government parties have allowed CAP payments to be conditional without safeguarding communities in terms of turbary rights, farming activity, and payment for ecological and climate mitigation services, including carbon storage.

End to turf cutting 

The Rural Ireland Organisation 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.

RIO believes there is a three-step process going on here. Ireland had to start with Bord Na Mona before it could ban commercial turf cutting.

Step three will be turbary rights because it is very possible it will be superseded by the incoming EU Regulation.

We must get recognition for farming activity, ecosystem payments and turbary rights built into the regulations. Otherwise, turf cutting will finish on all bogs in Ireland.

RIO will shortly announce a campaign to save turf cutting in Ireland and we require outcry from the general public.

Furthermore, we will also campaign for local electricity supply. The interests of Irish farming communities are being sacrificed to big corporations who are not only the biggest polluters but are also being gifted the rights to build and control wind farms which should belong to local communities.

Retro-fitting homes

Irish people have spent huge amounts of their hard-earned money on retrofitting their homes with the latest energy-saving technology.

People now that have underfloor heating systems, heat pumps etc and yet energy bills are higher than ever!

We cannot allow this energy swindle to continue. The people must fight for local electricity supply for our citizens in both urban and rural Ireland.

We will announce public meetings and a protest at the Dáil on these issues shortly.

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