Senator Regina Doherty introduced The Horticultural Peat (Temporary Measures) Bill 2021 before the Seanad on Tuesday 23 November, which will see the extraction of Irish peat for horticultural use.
The new bill is a part of the just transition to reduce Irish horticultural growers’ reliance on expensive imported peat as a growing medium for their produce.
Senator Doherty's bill proposes that licenses would be issued to allow peat extraction from Irish bogs for Irish production to address the current crisis.
"I don't say this lightly, but we won't have an Irish strawberry, an Irish Brussells sprout, an Irish lettuce - our producers will literally come to a halt, because financially they won’t be able to import long term," she said.
Alternatives to peat
This bill comes on the back of the failure to find alternative media for growing purposes.
Senator Doherty said that more investment into research is needed to find viable alternatives, but, in the meantime, Irish peat must be harvested for Irish horticultural products and for Irish nursery producers.
"We have 17,000 people working in the industry, 11,000 are employees, 6,000 are producers and owners and we are in real crisis," she said.
She outlined that the peat that Ireland is importing, despite the environmental impact it's having, is more expensive and the yields are much less than what we can produce here in Ireland.
"The legislation is not perfect, it does have some small flaws that I hope would be addressed by Government.
"There are some financial measures needed in the legislation to ensure that the Irish production is for Irish producers and not to go further afield," she said.
When asked why this issue was in her hands and not those of the Fine Gael party leader Leo Varadkar, Senator Doherty said that the issue kept arising in her constituency and she took it upon herself to write the legislation.
"I then went and wrote the legislation, I went then to my own colleagues in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to ask them would they consider supporting this legislation.
"I think we can send a very strong message to the leaders in Government that we can’t wait around much longer for them to fix this issue and this bill will go a long way to kick-starting it."
Senator Doherty was not able to give the exact figures when asked the exact tonnage and hectares of peat needed for the horticultural industry, but said it only makes up 0.12% of Irish peatlands.
"If you have a bog and apply for the derogation, you should be allowed to produce peat for Irish markets," she said when asked what bogs would be chosen for the proposed peat extraction.