Turf-cutters continue protests

 

by Mick Healy

Protests by the turf-cutters have been continuing over the past several months, while meeting resistance from the 26-county state.  Luke Ming Flanagan TD and PRO of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association has pointed out, for instance, “the turf-cutters are being intimidated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)”.  He has likened the turf-cutters’ activities to US black civil rights heroine Rosa Parks stayed seated on the bus and refusing to give up her seat to a white person.  “There are occasions that during the tyranny of the state, the law needs to be broken,” Flanagan has noted.

On June 20, over 200 turf cutters were involved in an overnight protest at Clonmoylan Bog near Woodford in Galway, during torrential rain.  The protest continued until 4pm the following day, observed by up to 60 police, some in riot gear.  The protest arose when turf cutting machinery was seized by the NPWS.

John Dore,  PRO for the Kildare Turf Cutters Association, has described the current situation as “totally unsatisfactory since the introduction of the EU Habitats Directive that prevents domestic turf cutters from cutting turf as they have done for hundreds of years”.

Mass protest meeting of turf-cutters, Athlone, Feb 2011

Furthermore the National Parks and Wildlife Service came to inspect the Mouds Bog in Rosberry, Co. Kildare, with the police recently and were met by some 25 to 30 angry people.  The turf-cutters held a protest with over 300 people standing in silence as Padraig Comerford  of the NPWS attempted to carry out various bog inspections.  The highlight of the protest was when Comerford fell into a bog hole of rain water and had to be rescued by the turf cutters.

At the protest 92-year-old Annie Burke read out a statement on behalf of local turf cutter.  She said that “NPWS inspections are akin to trespassing on our lands. We did not agree with any laws passed to authorise trespass. It was not debated properly and then passed in the Leinster House. The government said that the issue will be sorted out in a year but the NPWS said it will take three years before we have a solution. We have asked if Mouds Bog can be given the option of limited turf cutting but we are not sure that they will put us forward for consideration.  People feel now that they won’t have enough turf for the winter.”

What is more, the authorities have been determined to close all the 53 special Area of Conservation (SAC) bogs  including Mouds bog this year and there will be an additional 75 bogs closed by the end of 2013.  However, because of the opposition from turf-cutters, the government promised to implement  the National Raised Bog Plan.  The turf-cutters had hoped there would be no change to current domestic turf cutting until the National Plan was devised and fully implemented.  This was not to be, as the government simply reneged on the commitment made to the turf-cutters.

The Dublin Government cannot implement any National Plan unless they have the full cooperation of the communities who own and reside on these same bogs.  The turf-cutters will continue to keep the path of communication open but so far there’s no sign that the authorities are interested in doing anything other than obey the EU directives to halt traditional turf cutting.

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Posted on August 1, 2012, in Democratic rights - general, Economy and workers' resistance, Irish politics today, Public events - Ireland, Social conditions, Turf cutters, twenty-six counties. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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