Minister of State for Agriculture and Green Party senator Pippa Hackett has met with protesters from the horticulture sector who were raising concerns about the availability of peat for growers.
Their concerns follow a recent ban on the harvesting of peat from bogs over 30ha unless a specific licence is in place and already this has led to the importation of peat from other countries.
The IFA and the Kildare Growers group were involved in the protest and Kildare Growers took a particular aim at the Green Party.
“Does the Green Party want to go down in history as potentially being the party responsible for the demise of what they say is one of the greenest industries in Ireland, it is beyond absurd,” their spokesperson Larry Doran said.
Minister Hackett said that she had recently commissioned a report to identify opportunities in the sector and secured a 50% increase in funding up to €9m for the sector.
She said that she understood that a stock of Irish peat had been secured to immediately alleviate shortage issues.
“There are two quite separate issues in relation to peat,” the minister said.
“One is the need for smaller suppliers to achieve compliance with current legislation; the other is the availability of peat for the amenity horticulture sector.
“Peat is a finite resource and I know the sector understands the need for transitional phasing out of the use of it.
"So I welcome the moves already being made towards reducing peat usage within the sector, with most growers now using peat blends with material such as bark fibre or coir.
“Through my department, I am supporting research and development programmes on sustainable peat alternatives.
"I will also continue to be supportive of exploring all options, including small-scale extraction for the domestic commercial horticultural sector only, while they are transitioning to a peat-free future, provided such extraction is legally compliant.
“I will certainly ask my colleague Eamon Ryan to request Bord na Mona to help, as appropriate, with any technical help they may be in a position to offer in this regard.”
However, the minister insisted that she wanted to make it clear she believed that peat extraction had to stop.