Turf to be cut illegally in Easter Week rebellion


ILLEGAL TURFCUTTING is to recommence on scores of protected bogs after the latest breakdown in relations between the Government and affected landowners.

Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan, a spokesman for the Irish Turfcutters and Contractors Association, said yesterday cutting would start again at his bog in Co Roscommon within the next week regardless of threats by Ministers.

EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said he was very disappointed by the decision of Irish turfcutters to break off all contact with the Government and give the go-ahead to members to cut turf on protected habitats. The season for cutting turf begins about now each year, provided the weather is dry.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who failed to secure sufficient movement from the EU Commission to satisfy the turfcutters in talks in Brussels this week, warned that anyone found cutting turf illegally on protected bogs would “in time” be taken to court.

Mr Deenihan said Ireland was facing fines of up to €25,000 a day if it failed to apply the law, which prohibits cutting turf on 53 raised bogs in the midlands and west.

A ban on turfcutting for environmental reasons was first proposed in the 1992 habitats directive from which Ireland obtained a decade-long derogation.

Subsequent efforts to implement the ban have been resisted by turfcutters, who say their way of life and access to fuel would be impaired.

Mr Deenihan sought a solution by offering compensation, later increased to €2,000 in the first year for turfcutters who have to cease the practice. He also offered affected landowners the chance to move to unprotected bogs.

In the Dáil, the Government supported an Opposition motion calling for a national plan to protect raised bogs.

However, his approach foundered in Brussels on the commission’s insistence that cutting must stop pending the drawing-up of such a plan.

The turfcutters accused the Governent of betrayal and advised its members that “in honour of the 1916 Rising” Easter Week would be an ideal time to “strike for freedom and exercise your turbary rights in the time-honoured Irish tradition”.

Mr Flanagan said members did not trust the Government to honour its promises for a national plan and were therefore not willing to desist from cutting turf.