Shatter says turf protest TDs must obey the law

 

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has condemned TDs in the technical group for supporting protesters at Clonmoylan bog in Co Galway, accusing them of acting “as if obeying the law is a matter of choice”.

Mr Shatter accused the TDs of “fooling those whom they claim to support by implying that a failure to obey the law will change the facts of the situation”.

Rejecting his claim, Socialist Party TD Clare Daly accused the Government of “heavy-handed tactics” and asked if the Minister deemed it “acceptable practice that an armed response unit should be sent to respond to ordinary peaceful protests by citizens”. She claimed the presence of “fully assembled State forces amassed against ordinary decent citizens” represented a “major new departure in State policy”.

Ms Daly, who raised the controversy over turbary rights on protected raised bogs and the overnight Clonmoylan protest, said “people who work for the State who are armed were assembled against elderly, rural people who were just out to cut their turf”. Ms Daly said equipment worth €70,000, later burned out, was confiscated from what she claimed was “private property on privately owned land”. The Government had failed to act on a Dáil Private Members’ resolution, Ms Daly said, recommending “a process that would resolve the issues raised by the turfcutters” and protect the bogs.

Mr Shatter insisted the Government had put in place a compensation package for those affected by the EU rules banning turf-cutting on 53 raised bogs, including the option of a financial payment over 15 years, or relocation. There was an “unambiguous legal position” but cutting continued, “encouraged by grandstanding by some members in this House and elsewhere”. Ms Daly and her colleagues were “provoking ordinary people into conduct that is unnecessary and misleading them into believing the Government has not done everything possible at EU level to implement the motion”, which was untrue.

Neither the Garda nor the Government had any difficulty with peaceful protest but “people do not have a right to break the law or obstruct those implementing it”, the Minister said.