Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Impact of Peat Shortages on the Horticultural Industry: Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
I will try to address the questions in sequence, with the help of Mr. Lucas. To address Deputy Fitzmaurice's question on that commitment of the Government, as I have said, I am giving a wholehearted commitment. The Taoiseach and all of the Government are concerned about that. My Department has limited responsibility with regard to heritage and no responsibility with regard to the planning side of things or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
We will absolutely use those six months wisely. We have used the time to date wisely. We have given every single consideration to how we could deal with this in an Irish context. In saying this, I address Deputy Carthy as well. It was never my preference for importation to be an option. It is certainly a less favourable option environmentally when quality peat exists in this country but the law is the law. We have to try to figure out a solution that works in an Irish context. We have spoken about the issue Deputy Fitzmaurice raised, that of degraded bogs, before. I may ask Mr. Lucas to come in on that point.
With regard to the Deputy's third question, the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill is back on the Order Paper. We are determined to get it through. We are working on that along with a biodiversity Bill. I give the Deputy my assurance on that.
With regard to the Deputy Carthy's specific question on other countries, these countries have a different consent system, a single consent system. With regard to the steps my Department, which has responsibility for heritage, is taking, we do not have competence in this area. Our task in respect of the peatlands strategy has been to consider alternatives.
I am of the view that 2030 is too far out. I know the interim report stated 2030 to 2035 but solutions exist. There has been quite a lot of research done. I have been liaising with the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Heydon, with regard to putting in place a research fund to look at those alternatives. I will await Dr. Prasad's report to see what recommendations are put to me. Dr. Prasad himself has a significant background in the area of composting and the use of organic materials. There are solutions there and we could get to them sooner than we think. I am determined to see that through. I will receive that report and we will seek those solutions.
I agree with Deputy Leddin that we should not politicise this matter. We should work together to find a solution that works for the sector. We are deeply concerned about those thousands of jobs and maintaining a vibrant horticultural sector in Ireland. I may have addressed the issue Deputy Leddin raised with regard to the legislative bind but I will ask Mr. Lucas to come in on that specific point and on the point Deputy Fitzmaurice raised regarding degraded bogs.