Turf-cutters before Galway court

Supporters of four men accused of illegally cutting turf in protected bogs have vowed to continue to stage protests outside court sittings.

Supporters of four men accused of illegally cutting turf in protected bogs have vowed to continue to stage protests outside court sittings.

Wed, Mar 6, 2013, 00:00

Supporters of four men accused of illegally cutting turf in protected bogs have vowed to continue to stage protests outside court sittings.

A crowd of some 350 people demonstrated outside Loughrea District Court yesterday when the four men from south Co Galway made their first appearance in court.

Michael D’Arcy (43) from Ballycahill, Killimor, Padraic Byrne (57) from Main Street, Killimor, Pat McDonagh (43) from Portumna and Tony Parker (44) from Woodford, appeared before Judge Geoffrey Browne.

They are the first to be summonsed since an EU habitats directive imposed restrictions over a year ago on turf cutting due to environmental damage on 53 bogs which are designated areas of special conservation.

The men are being prosecuted under sections of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.

Supt. Enda Walshe said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service was overseeing the implementation of the new regulation and that this had led to several confrontation between officials and turf cutters.

He said that there had been widespread disregard of the new regulation and that An Garda Síochana had been called in to assist in the implementation of the new regulation.

Supt Walshe said that one of the implications of the new regulation was that the State could be fined €25,000 each day if it was not implemented.

The four men were summonsed in relation to incidents which occurred at Clonmoylan Bog in south Co Galway on May 22nd and 23rd, and August 21st last year.

Defence solicitor, Gearoid Geraghty, said that there were human rights and constitutional issues involved and the case was arguably at a level which may go to a higher court than the circuit court.

Judge Browne refused jurisdiction in the district court. The cases will now be heard in the circuit court. The men will appear again before Loughrea District Court on April 10th for service of the books of evidence.

Gardaí maintained a strong presence outside the courthouse and all people entering the small building were asked to identify themselves. The road outside the courthouse was closed to traffic.

The hearing lasted ten minutes and the four men were applauded when they joined supporters, who remained on the footpaths a short distance away from the courthouse.

Dermot Moran of the Barroughter and Clonmoylan Bog Action Group said that bog, owners and protesters would continue to support the four men during each court sitting.

“People have travelled from all over the country to show their support and they will continue to do so no matter what court this comes before. We are 100 per cent behind them,” said Mr Moran.

Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said the men had widespread support. “They only want to cut turf for their own homes,” he said.