More than 700 turfcutters across Ireland have yet to be re-allocated a new plot to cut turf.

Recent department statistics show some 1,689 legal agreements have been issued to those applying for the cessation of the turfcutting scheme. To date some 1,151 legal agreements have been returned to the department.

Under the scheme turfcutters who opt to relocate to an undesignated bog will also receive a one off payment of €500 and will be entitled to receive either a payment of €1,500 or a delivery of 15 tonnes of turf for each year until their relocation bog is ready to commence turf-cutting.

Speaking recently Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said: “It is the aim of my department to secure a relocation site for every person who has applied for one and progress is being made in that task.

“Relocation is a complex process that takes time to deliver. The agreements being issued reflect this reality. The interim agreement is designed to give all stakeholders the time to deliver relocation options that work for turfcutters. The clear directions that I have given my officials is to examine all relocation options with a view to securing alternative cutting locations for as many turfcutters as possible within the shortest timeframe.”

He stressed: “These people are entitled to relocation since they have expressed an interest in it. Unfortunately the quality and quantity of turf of some of the bogs the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA)  identified for possible relocation sites do not measure up, which means we must consider other alternatives.

“The majority of turfcutters have accepted the compensation and significant numbers are signing up to the contracts daily. I am very hopeful we can satisfy the 700 people on the special areas of conservation within the six-year period,” he noted.

Under the cessation of turfcutting compensation scheme, there are three types of legal agreements.

First is a legal agreement for qualifying turfcutters who are signing up to the annual payment of €1,500, index-linked, for 15 years.

Second is a relocation interim legal agreement for qualifying turfcutters who have expressed an interest in relocation, but where no relocation site is currently available for them to relocate to. This relocation interim legal agreement provides for the payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum, while these applicants are awaiting relocation to non-designated bogs.

Third is a relocation final legal agreement. This agreement has been issued to qualifying turfcutters where a site has been assessed as suitable for relocation and is ready, or can be made ready, for use for domestic turfcutting. Turf cutters who sign and return the applicable legal agreement to the department will also receive a once-off incentive payment of €500.