Thursday 14 December 2017

No prosecutions over illegal cutting of turf despite threat of €1.9m fine

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

NOT a single turf cutter has been prosecuted so far for breaking the law by harvesting turf from protected bogs this year.

The State gave a commitment to the European Commission that there would be no more turf cutting on 53 raised bogs. It is facing a penalty of €1.9m, plus daily fines of €25,000, if this is found to be breached.

But Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan said there had been turf cut on 26 protected bogs this year – including on his own in Roscommon. "I went out and vindicated my rights and so did many thousands of turf cutters," he said.

Mr Flanagan issued a direct challenge to the authorities to take court action against him for cutting turf.

"If the Government wants to prosecute us for doing that and bring us to court, then let them do it," he said.

Despite threats by the authorities to cut off farm grant payments to turf cutters who broke the law, this has not yet happened either.

A Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht spokesman confirmed there had been no prosecutions so far but said gardai had sent a file about a number of incidents to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He also said that the department had sent a number of cross-compliance reports concerning illegal turf cutting to the Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for farm payments.

The battle over turf cutting in protected bogs led to several confrontations over the spring and summer months.

But new figures show that around 2,500 turf cutters have applied for compensation or relocation to another bog under a Government-run scheme.

Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan said steady progress was being made on the turf-cutting issue.

"Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done here, but I am encouraged by the engagement so far," he said.

Irish Independent

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