The Peatlands Council was informed last week that turfcutting was taking place. Aerial photographs were presented as evidence.
An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment say they have “eyewitness reports of members of An Garda Síochána laughing and joking as they apparently stand by watching the law being broken”.
“Those breaking the law face no sanctions apparently. It does not seem that names are being recorded with a view to prosecutions. No turfcutting machines are being seized — in fact, there appear to be no consequences whatsoever,” said a Friends of the Irish Environment spokesman.
The two groups are calling on the Taoiseach and minister for agriculture to more adequately resource the monitoring of raised bogs by appointing a full-time person to ensure the bogs are not touched.
A spokesman for An Taisce said: “Peat is now being illegally extracted on nine of the 53 protected bogs in spite of the Taoiseach’s pledge that the law would be upheld. Because the law is not being enforced, turf contractors are being emboldened. Starting with unlawful cutting on one or two protected bogs, the situation quickly rose to nine and, without a commitment to uphold the law, the situation could spiral out of control.”
The nine bogs allegedly being cut are Barroughter, Lough Lurgeen, Curraghlehanagh and Ardgraigue in Co Galway, Lough Corrib in Galway and Mayo, Corbo in Co Roscommon, Drumalough, Cloonchambders, and Lough Ree in Co Roscommon.
Last month, Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said Europe could impose fines of up to €25,000 a day on Ireland if turfcutting occured on bogs deemed special areas of conservation.
Meanwhile, Roscommon TD Luke Flanagan has continued to defend his comments likening the cutting of turf on raised bogs to the resistance movement against the Nazis. Yesterday, he likened the turfcutters’ plight to that of black civil rights hero, Rosa Parks.
Yesterday, on Shannonside Radio, he used Parks as another example to explain why law breaking should sometimes take place.
“There are occasions that during the tyranny of the state that the law needs to be broken. I could have used Rosa Parks, refusing to sit at the back of a bus, as an example of where the law got it wrong,” he said.