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 last four questions, and I apologise that I have to depart shortly on Dáil business. I might ask Mr. Lucas to come in specifically on the options.
With regard to the continued assertion that this is the green agenda, who would accept we would attempt or try to move to undermine an industry? Our collective job as legislators is responsibility towards those people, the staff, the workers and the families, and we have exhausted and will continue to exhaust every option possible to try to secure a viable alternative and interim, medium- and long-term solutions for the sector. I am giving that commitment to the members. I am happy to come back to the committee at later stages to update it once I receive Dr. Prasad's report.
As has been said by others, we are caught in a legislative bind. To address Deputy Healy-Rae's point on legislating, we will not get there any quicker by moving primary legislation on this. Mr. Lucas has already updated the Deputy on that. It will take a significant amount of time regardless. I give our commitment and that of the Government that we will continue to work collectively to try to move towards those alternatives. There are nurseries out there using peat alternatives, and there nurseries throughout the world and growers in other areas that are able to use peat alternatives. There are options.
I reiterate the point raised by Deputy Browne on importation. It was certainly never my preferred option. There is no doubt it is environmentally more damaging to put it all onto fleets of lorries, load it onto shipments and then unload it onto fleets of lorries, but this is, unfortunately, the situation in which we are. We were a country that exported our horticultural peat for many years. As I said early on in this meeting, it has been a commodity, but unfortunately that situation has changed and drastically so. We have to work within the law and a changed environment to try to seek a solution.
I hope I have addressed, while not specifically touching on, all of the points raised by members. I will ask Mr. Lucas to come in quickly on the specific issue of other options which we have been exploring over recent months.