Dáil Éireann - Volume 479 - 13 May, 1997
Written Answers. - Property Rights.
Mr. N. Treacy Mr. N. Treacy
115. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the reason he is removing the legally held rights of property owners at locations (details supplied) in County Galway; the date on which this was done; the reason there was neither prior consultation or notification available to these people; if he will rescind this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12527/97]
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins) Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins)
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): The European Union Habitats Directive requires member states to protect their most important natural areas by designating them as special areas of conservation, or SACs. Under the terms of the European Union (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997, of 26 February, 1997, I, as Minister, have power to control farming or other activities which will have a significant damaging effect on the ecology of these natural areas. Ownership rights are not affected.
Designation proposals for County Galway were published in local newspapers in the week ending 14 March 1997 and every effort has been made to inform affected landowners-users of SAC designation  proposals. In every case where ownership-user details were available to my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service individual notices were sent, giving details of the extent of the proposals, and explaining that farming-land use in these areas will have to be in accordance with approved individual farm plans, that objections-appeals are possible and how to do this, and that compensation will be paid for any losses arising from farmers-land users as a result.
Because the data available on land ownership was incomplete, designation proposals were advertised in local newspapers and on local radio: these advertisements included details of where additional information could be obtained. A series of public meetings, with NPWS staff in attendance, has taken place around the country, and this process will continue.
Persons who feel that they may be affected by SAC proposals should contact the nearest office of the NPWS. Local staff will be happy to confirm whether proposed designations affect the person concerned, and will explain the implications of designation for farming and other activities in these areas both in the short and long term. Alternatively they can ring a freephone number 1800-405-000 for more information.
With specific regard to turbary, areas of raised and blanket bog are included in proposed SAC areas because these habitats are defined as priority habitats in the Habitats Directive, and as such must be given the highest level of protection. However, in protecting these bogs, the approach of NPWS is that restrictions of traditional use of these areas should be at the minimum level that will allow Ireland to meet its international obligations. Cutting that will not cause significant damage although it is only fair to say that use of the “sausage machine” system is likely to be very damaging.
NPWS local staff will be looking at the kind of turf cutting going on in each area and will make every effort to agree a mutually acceptable arrangement with the land users in question. In cases where restrictions on cutting represent the only way to protect these bogs, full compensation will be paid.
With regard to the specific tubary plot owners referred to by the Deputy, I will be glad to arrange for officials of the NPWS to meet the persons involved if the Deputy wishes to supply me with the names of the appropriate contact persons.
Dáil Éireann 479 Written Answers. Property Rights.