Turf-cutters say more than 30 protected bogs have been cut
Two bogs cut in Galway at weekend, despite EU habitats directive restrictions
Turf-cutters at Clonmoylan Bog, Co Galway vow to keep harvesting bogs despite their being designated as special areas of conservation under the EU habitats directive. Photograph: Hany Marzouk
Turf-cutters in the west estimate that more than 30 of the 53 raised bogs where harvesting is banned have been cut so far this summer in defiance of EU habitats directive restrictions.
Two bogs, at Clonmoylan and Barroughter, in southeast Galway, were cut over the weekend, with contractors working throughout Friday night.
Gardaí observed the activity from the public road, but made no arrests. Clonmoylan and Barroughter Bogs Action Group spokesman Dermot Moran said access to the bogs was by private road, and the plots were privately held.
Up to 90 people took part in the activity, using machinery, with support from Turf Cutters and Contractors Association members and other groups from Clare, Offaly, Westmeath and Tipperary.
On the previous weekend, two plots of turf had been hand-cut using the sleán on Clonmoylan and Barroughter during a “family day” event, Mr Moran said.
Mr Moran said the group was “always looking for a solution” to the dispute with Government over the issue, but was not happy to accept €1,500 in compensation.
“We intend to continue, and we maintain that turf-cutting and conservation can go hand in hand,” he said.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has warned that Ireland faces large fines if the EU directive on protecting unique habitats is not complied with.
Early last month, the European Commission said court action would be initiated against the State if the restrictions continued to be breached.
Urgent need for ceasing the activity was “underlined by the latest scientific assessments which show that about 38 per cent of Ireland’s active raised bog habitat has been destroyed in the period 1995-2012, overwhelmingly as a result of turf-cutting”, the commission said.
“Apart from the loss of nationally and internationally important biodiversity, this has serious financial implications as there are obligations to provide redress for the damage,” it warned.