April 2012        

Turf-cutters win a first victory


The Government is to organise a delegation to travel to Brussels to meet the EU Commission in an attempt to resolve the grievances of the turf-cutters. A motion tabled by Luke Ming Flanagan TD in support of the turf-cutters was passed when the Government withdrew its amendment to the motion.
     In addition, the Turf Cutters’ and Contractors’ Association held a massive rally outside outside Leinster House in support of the motion proposed by the technical group calling for the submission of a national raised-bog restoration plan. More than 4,500 people turned up, some travelling from as far away as Cos. Kerry, Clare, and Cavan. They carried placards demanding “No to EU bog evictions and no to EU dictatorship.”
     One of the most important developments in the last eighteen months must be the resistance of turf-cutters to the EU directive that banned turf-cutting.
     Luke Flanagan TD, PRO of the Turf Cutters’ and Contractors’ Association, claims this is not a new battle. “It started 106 years ago in Cloonerco bog, when people in the area were told they could no longer cut their turf because the powers that be at the time found someone more important to make use of it. When they took the turf banks off local people, the socialist republican Father Michael O’Flanagan—who was, coincidentally, the first man to utter words in the first Dáil, when he said the prayer at its first sitting—stood by them. He went into the bog, cut turf with them, and won the battle.
     “This is not an issue that can be solved by money. If that were the case the problem would have been solved a long time ago. This is about our culture.”

     However, Thomas Pringle TD (independent) commented that in the present climate in the country, “as we face into a referendum on the fiscal compact, a terrible thought strikes me. The need for the Government to have the referendum passed could be factoring in to its response to the motion. How can the turf-cutters be sure that this is not a ruse to ensure they vote the right way in the referendum?”
     Similarly, Joan Collins TD (People Before Profit) stated: “I welcome the opportunity to express my solidarity with my rural brothers and sisters. Attempts often are made to create a rural-city divide, and opportunities such as this demonstrate that one should have solidarity with one’s rural brothers and sisters in this regard. In general, this is a national class divide, not a rural-city divide.”
     According to Eugene McCartan of the CPI, the turf-cutters’ victory reveals the difference between a people mobilised around clear demands and the many demonstrations with no clear demands or strategy organised over the last couple of years.
[MH]

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