The European Commission says it is seriously concerned at illegal turf cutting on raised bogs around the country.

In a statement today, the Commission said it would be left with no option but to take the Government to court if breaches of the ban continue.

It claims that 38% of raised bog habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years as a result of persistent turf cutting.

The Commission says that, under the terms of the European Habitats Directive, a ban on cutting will apply to 35,000 hectares - or just over 4% of the total bogland here.

The Commission acknowledged the steps being taken by the Government to deal with those affected by the ban but said cutting on raised bogs must stop as a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has called for decisive action from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to stop bog owners who are ignoring the ban.

Green Party Environment Spokesperson Cllr Malcolm Noonan says it is unacceptable that gardaí are standing by, while cutting on raised bogs take place.

He has called for the seizure of machinery used to cut turf on Special Areas of Conservation.

Mr Noonan said defiance of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association should be met with decisive action by the Minister to enforce the turf cutting ban.