Eamon Ryan comments expose government ‘disinterest’ in horticulture peat crisis – Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that comments by Minister Eamon Ryan in response to a Dáil question on ongoing crisis in the horticulture sector has ‘exposed the disinterest to date of the government in general and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in particular.
Carthy said that a full month following the publication of the Working Paper to address challenges related to peat supply in the Horticulture Sector, there remained no apparent workable regulatory approach that would facilitate the harvesting of horticultural peat for use in the mushroom sector.
Teachta Carthy was speaking following an interaction with Minister Eamon Ryan by Deputy Martin Kenny and himself.
Deputy Carthy said:
“Minister Ryan commented in the Dáil that he believed the Department of Agriculture has recently ‘taken a real lead’ – this begs the question as to where the Department and Minister for Agriculture have been for the past two years?
“The truth is that Ministers across the Departments of Agriculture, Climate and Housing have been incredibly slow to engage on this matter, with the issue being fobbed off to various Minister of State.
“There simply has not been the serious intervention that is required at cabinet level – an intervention that the horticultural sector have been looking to the Minister for Agriculture to make.
“This whole process has been marked by delays.
“The Government set up an expert working group to examine these issues. The length of time the working group took, as well as the length of time the Government then took to deliberate on its findings, was excessive. The government have now ignored some of the central of findings of that working group.
“We must put a stop the scandal of the importation of peat coming from places where we have no oversight on the environmental regulations overseeing that process. We can do that by allowing the limited extraction of peat, in order to service our domestic horticulture and mushroom sector in particular.
“The reason why Mushroom farms are so prevalent in Counties like Monaghan is because holdings are small. They were unprofitable. Farmers did as they were asked – they diversified – and they turned small, unprofitable holdings into an economic driver of an entire region.
“Their sector needs peat.
“At present, there is no sustainable alternative to peat. I expect it will come and government and the sector must intensify efforts to find it. But the government cannot wish alternatives into existence.
“The response of Minister Ryan has all but confirmed that Ministers within the Department of Climate and Housing do not intend to assist in the resolution of this matter – as such responsibility for addressing this crisis lays solely on the shoulder of the Minister for Agriculture, who has been appeared disinterested for far too long.
“The Minister for Agriculture should make lay out a roadmap to the Dáil as to exactly how he intends to support the sector and resolve this crisis.”