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Bogs-ban protesters vow they'll go to jail in battle

IT IS a battle between those wishing to preserve the cultural heritage of turf-cutting, and those who wish to save the landscape itself.

But turfcutters have vowed that a new-year ban will not affect their way of life.

Thirty-two raised bog areas, mainly in Galway, Roscommon and Offaly, have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation and were out of bounds for turf-cutting as of yesterday.

But defiant campaigners, who are opposing the move, say they will break the law and go to jail if necessary so they can continue to cut turf.

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, chairman of The Turfcutters' and Contractors' Association (TCCA) and a member of Roscommon County Council, said: "In effect, 165 bogs will be taken out of action in the ban. The area in question is the most impoverished in the country.

"It has the highest population of people over 65 years old and they are being asked to pay five times more in fuel bills at a time when people never had less money."

He pointed out that less than 10pc of the designated bogland was in private ownership and the TCCA has estimated it would take 500 years for all the turf to be cut away.

"Bord na Mona has estimated that there is between €280,000 and €285,000 worth of turf per acre and yet they are only offering compensation of €3,000.

"But the bottom line is that we don't want any compensation. We want to be able to continue to cut turf," added the councillor, who owns a portion of bog affected by the ban.

From yesterday turfcutting was banned on 32 bogs.

And at the end of 2012 a further 23 bogs across the midlands and west will be added to the list.

Irish Independent