Turf wars update
by Barry Healy
By the end of 2013 the southern Irish state and the EU will have closed 130 bogs across the 26 counties, designating these raised bogs as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). In effect they will prevent families and domestic turf cutters from cutting turf as they have done for hundreds of years.
The EU Habitats Directive was introduced fourteen years ago; yet the Dublin government’s inaction has been palpable with little or no consultation by the previous government with those affected. The belated action has been the introduction of a scheme for affected landowners and people with turbary rights, offering compensation of €1,000 a year for up to 15 years or, if possible, the transfer of their cutting to other bogs which are not SACs. The compensation seems grossly unfair considering it more than likely won’t cover the annual cost of another fuel, let alone the installation of a new central heating system, so fuel poverty is a reality.
Across the areas affected turf cutters have come together to oppose this ban, with groups springing up in Laois, Sligo, Kerry, Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, and Kildare, under the umbrella of The Turf Cutters & Contractors Association (TCCA). The latter has seen a groundswell of support for the Kildare Turf Cutters Association, one of the most affected areas.
Supporters of the directive are keen to emphasise the environmental preservation nature of the ban yet bizarrely it doesn’t apply to state-owned bogs (92% of all bogs in the south) which are, and will continue to be, operated commercially by Bord na Móna. Meanwhile the KTCA is stressing it wishes to find “an acceptable solution” to be put in place “so that domestic turf cutting can continue in a conservation friendly way” and believe “a compromise can be reached to suit our needs and the aims of the authorities”.
This is likely to remain a burning issue in Kildare and beyond if we consider KTCA spokesperson John Dore’s comment at a meeting in Camross: “We have plenty of people prepared to go to jail next year if we don’t get our way. Either we take this lying down or we stand up and be counted.”
Kildare turf-cutters fight back