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State caves in to turf cutters and backs Dail protest motion

The Government last night caved in to the protesting turf cutters in an effort to strike a peace deal over the contentious restrictions on access to bogs.

The move was being regarded as an effort to appease the turf cutters, but won't fundamentally change the impact of the EU directive.

The doubling of compensation for those affected wasn't enough to prevent a large crowd of protesters against the closure of some bogs from turning up outside Leinster House.

After up to 2,000 turf cutters held a protest on Kildare Street, a motion in support of the turfcutters was passed in the Dail -- with the support of the Government.

Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan withdrew the Government's amendment to the motion tabled by the Technical Group.

Delegation

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also agreed to send a delegation of TDs to Europe to express concerns over the EU directive, which is resulting in the closure of 53 raised bogs to turf cutters. The delegation will make representations to the European Commission about the environmental directive aimed at protecting special areas of conservation.

Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan tabled the motion in support of the turf cutters. Mr Flanagan acknowledged he wanted to see a united front on the issue.

But the shifting of the Coalition's position did not go down well with all coalition backbenchers. "It's Ming 1 -- Deenihan 0," said one TD last night.

As revealed by the Irish Independent two weeks ago, the turf cutters in 14 different counties are now going to be offered €2,000 in compensation this year and then €1,500 per year for the next 14 years.

Mr Deenihan doubled the compensation for the turf cutters to avoid the prospect of paying a €25,000 daily fine to the European Commission.

So far, less than half of the turf cutters affected have applied for the state compensation scheme set up last year, and just 63 have been paid.

Mr Deenihan is extending the deadline for applications for the compensation process to the end of next month.

Demonstrators, who began arriving in buses from 6pm onwards for the 7.30pm rally, blew whistles, waved placards and pushed turf-laden wheelbarrows to voice their opposition to the directive.

Farmer Adrian Farrell, who cuts turf at the Carbo Bog near Derrane, Co Roscommon, said he relied on the turf to heat his home and that of his brothers and their mother. "Two-thousand euro won't provide oil for five in the family," he said.

Irish Independent