the Kildare Turf Cutters Association have called on the government to provide ‘interim permission’ to keep cutting until compensation is fully agreed and a national plan to protect the raised bogs is delivered.
The EU Commission has insisted that cutting must stop pending the drawing-up of such a national plan for the 53 protected bogs mainly in the midlands and the west which include Mouds Bog and Ballinafagh Bog.
“We would like an interim permission to cut turf while this is all being sorted out,” said PRO John Dore. “Why should we hold back from cutting? This could take another ten or twelve months. Martin Heydon (TD) is saying we are so close and it would be a shame to cut turf now but nothing is in writing.”
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who failed to secure sufficient movement from the EU Commission to satisfy the turf cutters in talks in Brussels last week, warned that anyone found cutting turf illegally on protected bogs would “in time” be taken to court.
“We are considering our options,” Mr Dore added. “We don’t see that we have any other option. Even if the government turn a blind eye, the Friends of the Environment will be out taking pictures to send to Europe. People are in grave situations. There are 270 turf cutters in Mouds bog for 100 banks. If they are telling us that there is 15 tonnes of turf for everybody at €150 per tonne that makes €675,000 for just one bog. They say they have €5 million this year but there are 53 protected bogs in the country. That won’t go very far. This is just bad management and we are left in limbo. All of the bogs outside of the European designated zones have been cut by now. This has to be brought to a head. How long have they had to sort this out?”
Minister 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 the 53 raised bogs in the midlands and west. He sought a solution by offering compensation, later increased to €2,000 in the first year for turf cutters who have to cease the practice. He also offered affected landowners the chance to move to unprotected bogs.
Deputy Heydon TD was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press