November 2012        

Turf-cutters fight back against state lies

In October 2011, Luke Ming Flanagan TD, PRO of the Turf Cutters’ and Contractors’ Association, said that the minister for arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, had signed the EU Birds and Natural Habitats Directive, which bans turf-cutting, while the matter was still in negotiation. This ban occurred despite a compromise proposed by the TCCA whereby 80 per cent of fifty-three bogs in special areas of conservation would not be cut.
      A year later the government is continuing its offensive against the turf-cutters. Following an extraordinary meeting of the TCCA in Birr this year the association issued a strong statement, disputing claims by the Department of Heritage on the success of the compensation scheme and efforts to resolve the stalemate.
      Turf-cutters say that the claim by Deenihan that turf was cut on only eleven of the fifty-three SACs is untrue and that turf was cut on twenty-nine of them, in spite of threats and intimidation from the state.
      While turf-cutters claim that some owners may have applied for compensation, not all of them were active turf-cutters. They have examples where people have not cut for years, and in some cases for decades, yet they have received compensation. The association says that if the purpose of the compensation package was to discourage active turf-cutters from practising their centuries-old tradition, then it has been a failure.
      The statement follows the comment by Deenihan that he secured the suspension of EU court action against the government on the grounds of the progress that has been made. Turf-cutters intend going to the EU Commission to express their side of the dispute.
      Turf-cutters will stress that they have expressed the will to keep the path of communication open but that the authorities need to talk straight, listen, and engage in finding an acceptable solution.

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