TDs and farm leaders called for a national agreement on bog rewetting during an Oireachtas committee on the subject on Tuesday 2 March.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice for Roscommon-Galway initially put forward the idea, which was quickly backed by other speakers.
“Written agreement is needed between all parties to rule out any ambiguity,” Fitzmaurice said.
He said that while Bord na Móna had engaged positively on the subject, there needed to be clarity over who would maintain bogs, drains and pumps on the land in the coming years.
“Once a bog is rewetted there won’t be any going back,” Fitzmaurice said.
“While everyone can smile with each other and agree on a Zoom meeting, at the end of the day it’s the farmers in 10 or 15 years when we might not even be in politics who will suffer the consequences of this.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice also urged caution in rewetting bogs, as he said rushing it could lead to “bog slippage”.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said that Bord na Móna estimated that 33,000ha of bog would be rewetted and said that, while it could be a positive thing for farmers, work needed to be done to ensure they were supported.
He insisted that the future ownership of the rewetted bogs must remain under the aegis of the State.
Cullinan said the scale of the project was “enormous” and there were fears around flooding in local areas where rewetting took place.
Concerns were also expressed by ICMSA president Pat McCormack who said that “until the ink dried” nothing would be settled.
Independent TD Carol Nolan for Laois-Offaly pointed out that many private turfcutters were concerned that their turbary rights would be affected and called for another written agreement for private turfcutters.
IFA deputy president Brian Rushe raised the matter of possible peat shortages for the horticulture industry in the wake of Bord na Móna’s decision to stop cutting turf and peat.
He said local plant nurseries were considering imported peat from Lithuania.
His comments drew a rebuttal from Green Party TD and chair of the climate committee Brian Leddin and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice but the exchange was quickly shut down by agriculture committee chair Jackie Cahill.