Rise in illegal turf-cutting on protected bogs

 

MORE THAN 200 plots of turf have been cut on protected bogs over the last four weeks, a survey by an environmental group has shown.

High temperatures at the end of May saw a large increase in the amount of turf being cut in protected areas, according to a report by environmentalist group Friends of the Irish Environment. The report shows turf being cut on protected bogs in Galway, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath and Kildare.

The State gave a commitment to the European Commission that there would be no more turf-cutting on 53 raised bogs – and if this was breached, Ireland would face a daily fine of €25,000.

The group surveyed a cross-section of 21 of the 53 designated protected bogs and found turf had been cut on 17 of the 21.

Director of Friends of the Irish Environment Tony Lowes said he believed ignoring the law was widespread and the Government response was inadequate. “Bringing people to court is not an effective way of dealing with the issue,” he said. “The machinery should have been seized from the turf-cutters originally.”

Gardaí and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs are working to bring prosecutions where illegal turf-cutting has taken place, according to a department statement. It has also written to 45 contractors and landowners.

Roscommon TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan, who is spokesman for the Turf Cutters’ and Contractors’ Association, said he had cut turf on the protected Cloonchambers bog. “I have most certainly cut my bog and we will have to see what happens with these court cases. The Government has been extremely successful in worrying people who are cutting their turf here but we are willing to fight them.”

Mr Flanagan said they would be willing to co-operate and stop cutting on the protected area next year if relocation was implemented. Affected turf-cutters can apply for financial compensation of €23,000 payable over 15 years. If available, they can apply to be relocated to an unprotected bog.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan said yesterday: “My department has also been abundantly clear that the law will be applied here, as is the case with any law. The alternative is for the law of the land to be flouted.”