Turf-cutting row rages over fines
BOTH sides in the ongoing turf-cutting dispute are blaming each other for possible fines of €25,000 a day if the matter isn't resolved soon.
The Irish Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA) insists that if the EU imposes fines on the Government for allowing turf-cutting in 53 EU-protected bogs, it will be because of its failure to work with bog owners.
Roscommon South Leitrim Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who is also spokesman for the TCCA, claims the EU supports its position.
He claims that Alan Seatter, deputy director general of environment at the European Commission, has informed him that the State would be liable for fines if realistic progress isn't made by the Government on its controversial plan to relocate turf-cutters. The TCCA has already called on Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan to consider his position, describing his handling of the dispute as 'shambolic'.
Mr Deenihan countered the EU meant business and would impose fines despite the efforts of the Government to provide alternatives for turf-cutters.
"The commission recognises the work this Government has done in providing compensation and alternatives for affected turf-cutters," he said.
He added his department would provide whatever assistance it could to gardai to investigate any damage to bogs.
But Mr Flanagan claims the TCCA has been told by Mr Seatter that more help is needed from the Government.
"It's the Government that's making these decisions. And if we're fined, it's down to the fact that they didn't work with the people," he said.