Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan’s remarks that he wished he had not taken on part of his portfolio have been criticised by a conservation charity.
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said the arts and culture minister had taken a “dim view” of the heritage part of his brief after he remarked “part of me wishes that the portfolio had been kept to arts, sports and tourism”.
He was explaining to The Kerryman newspaper that he would argue to Europe that some bog owners should be allowed to continue to cut turf. He said his “sympathies are first and foremost with the turf-cutters, including members of my own extended family on Moanveanlagh”, referring to bogs in his local county.
“Part of me wishes that the portfolio had been kept to arts, sports and tourism, but that wasn’t the case and I have to accept responsibility on behalf of the Irish State on this issue.”
Pádraic Fogarty, IWT chairman, said at a time when nature is under threat, it was “disappointing and disheartening to read how our minister in charge of conserving the natural heritage has so little enthusiasm for his job”.
He said the minister should be “championing the rich diversity of life in this county” but instead has stated “that his priorities lie with a small vested interest, including his extended family”.
The Government intends to send a delegation to Brussels to meet the EU Commission in an attempt to resolve the grievances of raised bog owners. “We will press them for flexibility on the matter to see if anything can be done for our turf cutters,” Mr Deenihan said.
The Government gave in to Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan’s efforts to oppose the turf-cutting ban, by allowing a Dáil motion to pass on the issue last week.
Mr Deenihan said this was not a cave in. “If I hadn’t withdrawn the Government amendment Deputy Flanagan’s motion could not have gone through. I did so to keep to a spirit of co-operation on this issue I have always pursued,” he said.
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