Dominic McGrath, PA
The last-minute delay of a much-awaited report into alternatives to peat in Ireland has been described as “very concerning”.
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy said it was deeply worrying that the report, initially scheduled for publication by the end of September, had been pushed back.
Members of the horticulture industry are among those waiting to hear the findings of the report by a working group on horticultural peat, which was created earlier this year.
Junior minister Malcolm Noonan, who has responsibility for the issue in the Department of Housing, told Mr Carthy in a Dáil written answer this week that the report would be published by the end of September.
“I understand that the final report is to be completed and sent to me by the end of September 2021. The report is expected to identify possible alternatives to peat and to outline the research required to produce commercially effective alternatives for the horticulture sector,” Mr Noonan told the Sinn Féin TD.
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing confirmed to the PA news agency that the report had not been completed by the end of last month.
“The chair of the working group has indicated to the minister that the final report is at an advanced stage and will be provided to him before the end of October,” the spokesperson said.
“The brief extension was granted by Minister Noonan following a request by the chair, who informed him that the group needed more time to finalise the report.”
Led by independent chair Dr Munoo Prasad, the working group has been charged with examining the current challenges facing the horticultural industry following Ireland’s decision to end peat production.
The decision has been questioned by the horticulture and mushroom industry, which has queried why Ireland is now having to import peat.
The working group, which has held 11 meetings so far, is primarily considering any alternatives to peat.
Mr Carthy told PA: “It is very concerning that the working group report has been delayed.”
He questioned why the report’s publication had been “pushed back a month without explanation”.
“We have seen shipments arriving into Ireland with 4,000 tonnes of peat, after taking on a 3,000 kilometre sea journey,” he said.
“It’s clearly environmental and economic lunacy and therefore there needs to be urgent Government action to resolve it.”
He also asked why two different dates for the report’s publication had been provided in a matter of days.
“It seems there is no sense of urgency,” he said.
“I have great fears for the mushroom industry, because there is no realistic alternative at present.”
“In the absence of that, only two things can happen. Either peat will be imported or the mushroom sector will be exported.”