Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Agriculture Matt Carthy has said that the current crisis in the horticulture sector as a result of an effective ban on the harvesting of horticultural peat has been created by “successive governments” and called on Government to publish the report from the chair of the working group immediately.

“The fact that, in December, the Minister still hasn’t published that report is a signal of the lack of urgency,” Carthy said.

Carthy also asked the Government to outline the proposals to be implemented in order to tackle the current crisis.

There is no justification for that situation

Carthy said: “It is time for all Government parties to stop playing games on this issue and to deliver that solution as a matter of urgency.

“In recent months, we have witnessed the importation of huge shipments of peat from the far side of Europe.

“There is no justification for that situation just as there was no justification for the previous exportation of peat from Ireland by a state-owned company Bord na Móna.

He argues that the Green Party’s suggestion that the importation of peat is a viable alternative to the sector is a hypocritical approach to the environment which serves nobody.

This, he said, will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and a devastating impact on the communities that depend on the horticulture and mushroom sectors.

Farcical approach

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are adding to the farcical approach by Government,” Carthy said.

“Last week, senators from those two parties published the Horticultural Peat (Temporary Measures) Bill 2021.

It was a cynical exercise

“They fast-tracked the bill to the Seanad this week, and then those parties in Government decided that they wouldn’t support it and there wasn’t even a vote on it in the Seanad.

“It was a cynical exercise that did nothing for the sector other than to create false hope.

Carthy believes that the only solution is to allow for the cultivation of peat for domestic horticulture use to put an end to “the scandal of peat imports and exports to and from the island of Ireland”.

He has also called on Government for a commitment that resources will be invested to secure a long-term viable, sustainable alternative to peat.