Concern at park blanket bog claims
Parks and wildlife inspectors are investigating claims that swathes of turf were illegally cut from bogs on the edge of one of the country's most prized national parks.
The Irish Wildlife Trust claimed Glenveagh National Park in Donegal - home to golden eagles and red deer - has seen large swathes of blanket bog targeted for illegal commercial extraction.
The Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said it had launched an inquiry into the allegations .
The trust took photographs of four spots along the northern fringes of the park where it claims turf was cut in commercial quantities and one where household waste and tyres were dumped.
Only three specific locations on the northern periphery of the park are set aside for turbary rights where people can harvest enough turf for themselves for the winter - Devlin, Derrylahan and Meenbunone.
"The department is examining the recent cutting to ascertain the manner in which it was carried out and if it is in accordance with the extent of existing rights," a spokeswoman said.
The Irish Wildlife Trust said it had seen track marks left by machinery used to dig turf and drains had been created to dry out blanket bogs and allow easier access to the turf.
Padraic Fogarty, campaigns officer for the trust, said he is concerned that areas of sensitive habitat are being destroyed illegally and for commercial purposes.
He said: "If Glenveagh National Park is allowed to be destroyed in this way then none of our protected sites for nature is safe. It has to be asked why NPWS management, based just a short distance away, is allowing this to go on. It is appalling that so little value is placed on a national treasure that is of such value to County Donegal from an economic, heritage and recreational point of view".
The department said Glenveagh contains blanket bogs. Fifty-three areas, known as raised bogs, mostly around the Midlands and into Galway and Roscommon, have been shut down under European rules.
"In the case of Glenveagh National Park, the department - through the National Parks and Wildlife Service - is working with the local authority, Donegal County Council, to prevent illegal dumping and also deal with incidences when they arise," the spokeswoman for the department added.
Glenveagh was created out of lands handed down to the state by the Irish-American philanthropist Henry McIhenny of Philadelphia.
The Irish Wildlife Trust said: "That the State would allow wanton vandalism of this area of outstanding natural beauty is a betrayal of his generosity and the legacy of his family."