Plot owners at one of the country’s most contentious bogs are close to a deal to end their row with the Government.
Ross Bog on the Meath-Cavan border has been the scene of protests by turfcutters as rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) sought to implement the ban on removing turf under the terms of the EU Habitats Directive.
Members of the Sheelin Turfcutters Association have fiercely defended their right to cut their turf despite the designation of the raised bog as a Special Area of Conservation and gardaí have attended at the site as tensions rose between the sides.
Last year, almost 100 people marched at Ross Bog to assert their right to continue to cut turf there and to protest against the ban on working the peat banks.
Earlier this year, the association sat down to negotiate with senior officials of the NPWS to ensure they would retain their right to work the bog as their families had done for generations. The meetings in Castlepollard hinged on the amount of bog that would be retained for the plot owners under a relocation scheme that would be acceptable to both sides.
At a recent meeting, the turfcutters were offered 12.9 hectares of bog on which they could continue to cut turf for their own use.
The association declined the offer and has held out for a greater area. The NPWS, which implements the terms of the EU Directive on behalf of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is now to carry out a further survey of the site to examine the possibility of making an improved offer.
However, chairman of the Sheelin Turfcutters Association, Sean Reilly indicated that an agreement between the sides was now close and the survey was expected to be completed within a matter of weeks.
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