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Turf protesters take another cut at EU ban

ABOUT 150 people gathered for the symbolic cutting of turf yesterday on one of the 53 raised bogs where the practice has been banned under a controversial EU directive.

Representatives of the 50 families affected by the ban on cutting peat at Moanveanlagh bog near Listowel, Co Kerry, were joined by protesters as they arrived at the bog with pikes and sleans and proceeded to cut a small amount of turf in defiance of the ban.

To the sound of 'The Old Bog Road' on an accordion and banjo, the protesters walked in procession to the centre of the bog where tea was brewed over a peat fire.

A small number of gardai observed the protest from a distance but did not interfere. Speakers were heavily critical of local TD and Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who signed the EU directive – which aims to preserve the natural habitat of the 53 bogs around the country – in October 2011.

One of the turf-cutters, Michael Scannell called on "faceless public representatives" to stand by those affected.

"Our forefathers minded this bog for thousands of years and it's a credit to them. We intend to do the same," he said.

Mick Looney from Carruearagh, Listowel, said he had been cutting turf at the bog since 1944. "We have been offered alternative sites but they are many miles away and they are not satisfactory," he said.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris and Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae were present but neither accepted that they were advocating breaking the law by their presence.

Mr Ferris said it was a generational issue. "How could you compensate people when their fathers and grandfathers had cut here?" he asked.

Mr Healy-Rae said the best way to keep a bog alive was to keep cutting it.

"There is no proven science to say that abandoning a bog is good for it," he said.

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