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Dáil Speech on Turf Cutting Wednesday 7th March

I compliment the Minister, Deputy Hogan, on his appointment of Mr. Conor Skehan as chairman of the Peatlands Council, which has done a great deal of positive work in the past year. It must be acknowledged that it was the fault of the Government in place in 1992 when the habitats directive was introduced that no one understood what was going on. As stated by a previous speaker, all we saw was the former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, coming home with billions. We took no heed of what problems would arise as a result of the introduction of that directive. This will never happen again. We will not be caught out in respect of future directives from Europe.

I compliment Mr. Conor Skehan on travelling the country to meet turf cutters and other stakeholders and to engage with people in a positive manner. There is a coolness and calmness about Mr. Skehan that disarmed people who might otherwise have responded in an aggressive manner.

As for Mr. Justice Quirke’s forum, I note that although it only took place last week, a report issued therefrom within seven days. Had this been the case for the Mahon tribunal and all the rest, it would have saved us a fortune. A man like that must be complimented on his hard work. I am very disappointed with Deputy Ó Cuív. Although he was the Minister for a number of years, last night he stated that nothing was done for ten years and blamed the Department. There is an old phrase that if the driver of a cart is no good, the cart can go nowhere. I will leave it at that.

As a young fellow, I took turf from blanket bogs in County Wicklow and it was all sleán turf. In this context, I must compliment Mr. Colm Harrigan, who is the only person who hand-cuts turf in all the special area of conservation, SAC, bogs. He is a vital heritage emblem who should be recognised. In addition, it should be recognised that potentially, he is a tourism asset and this should be taken on board. While the Minister has done much work, there is a great deal more work to do. I approve of his flexibility and long may it continue. In addition, I approve of the manner in which the Minister put in place a national plan.

ENDS