Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has raised concerns that new compensation arrangements for turf cutters on SAC bogs does not address the problems facing commercial turf cutters.
Deputy Cowen said: “We must compensate acre for acre. A person who has ten acres of bog is entitled to ten acres compensatory bog. They should not be entitled to only one acre of bog to provide for their family. This does not take account of the historic value of acreage to a particular family and the many generations before them. These people must be properly compensated.
“What the Minister has proposed is the bones of a deal. The three categories of turf cutters that need to be considered are those who in places like Clara who came together to find a solution to provide for their immediate families; those who cut on commonage and have been left behind because they do not legal title; and those who have large holdings who, like it or lump it, are entitled to like for like compensation.
“This is about much more than compensation for turf-cutters. It raises issues about fuel poverty and rural incomes. Rural household incomes in the midlands are 9.4% below the national average. Turf is a very inexpensive source of fuel, being up to 60% cheaper than oil as the cost of turf is in the labour. A cessation policy will expose another significant number of households to fuel poverty. It is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 households will be directly affected by outright cessation. Their needs must be given priority.
“If compensation is to be monetary then there must be comprehensive analysis of land based on the income derived from it in recent years. It must be remembered that large holdings of bog derive income from its primary usage, which is turf cutting, not agriculture. Therefore, as in the case of State compensation for roads for example, adequate consideration and analysis of asset value and consequential compensation has to be forthcoming.”