Turf-cutters fear EU ban will be extended

AS TURF-CUTTING will be banned from bogs designated as special areas of conservation (SACs) after this spring’s cutting season, many people are angry and fear that a ban on the harvesting of peat on all bogs may soon follow.

The EU habitats directive, which is impacting on turf-cutting in the SAC bogs, was announced as far back as 1999, but cutters were allowed 10 years for removing turf for domestic purposes from the 32 designated raised bogs.

According to a Department of the Environment spokesman this directive is being introduced to protect rare flora and fauna, especially rare heather.

“Over half of the 32 bogs affected nationally are in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and that is why there is so much anger regarding this in the west,” said Paul Connaughton TD.

He is personally affected by the ban as his family will no longer be allowed cut turf at Carnagopple bog near Mountbellew.

While the National Parks and Wildlife Service has issued a statement denying reports that all turf-cutting by individuals will be banned on all bogs, several of those protesting this week at Carnagopple bog near Mountbellew fear this will change in the future.

Mr Connaughton says the legislation will have an impact on more than 1,000 acres in the bog where he and almost 200 others harvest their turf. He also rubbished a statement from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that the voluntary compensation scheme on offer from Duchas has “generous rates” of compensation for the cessation of turf-cutting.

“I would get €3,500, if I sell my acre of raised bog, but as the turf I cut there is worth €800 annually the amount of compensation would be used up in about four years and the plot of bog would be gone as well,” said Mr Connaughton.

“The plot of bog is in the title deeds of most farms and is considered the same as a field. It has the same importance for the economic and environmental operation of a farm,” he added.

According to Mr Connaughton the amount of turf used by people to heat their own homes, irrespective of how small it may be, reduces the dependence on the ever-decreasing supplies of oil.

“It can be argued that five years ago we thought we would never see the day when oil would be €100 a barrel. But while some economists now say that oil could reach €200 a barrel in the next few years this EU directive is still being implemented to stop people cut enough turf each year to heat their own homes.”

A west of Ireland official of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has also hit out at the bogs directive.

Connacht IFA vice-president Michael Silke, Loughrea, has called on Minister for the Environment John Gormley to extend the derogation to allow turf-cutting for domestic purposes in designated SAC bogs throughout the country.

He says domestic turf-cutting has little or no environmental impact on designated bogs and up to 6,000 bog users will be affected by the restrictions if Mr Gormley is not stopped from introducing this legislation.

Kerry Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae said he had been receiving hundreds of phone calls, especially from people in south and east Kerry, from people concerned about an outright ban on the age-old practice.

The 32 raised bogs, countrywide, on which turf-cutting must cease next year included one in Kerry — Sheheree bog in the Muckross area, of Killarney — according to Mr Healy-Rae.


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