Thursday 22 February 2018

Turf wars: Standoff between Gardai and protestors over bog cutting ends

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

A 24 HOUR standoff between gardai and protestors ended this afternoon after authorities agreed to released an impounded turf cutter in Co Galway.

Up to 200 protesters gathered at Clonmoylan bog near Portumna yesterday in support of local turf cutters who had been prevented from cutting turf in the area.

A digger which had been seized by the National Parks and Wildlife Service was destroyed last night after it went on fire.

A second vehicle, a hopper machine, remained in the custody of authorities.

Local began a blockade of the road on Wednesday evening to ensure the machine was not removed. Protesters stayed at the site overnight with bus loads of supporters arriving today. A large garda presence was also on hand with over 24 garda vehicles and up to 60 officers were at the scene at its height.

The standoff came to an end yesterday afternoon shortly after 1.30pm when an agreement was reached between Clonmoylan turf cutters and the Gardai.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan has given a briefing that they hopper machine seized by Gardai is to be returned to its rightful owner, Michael D'Arcy. An examination of the machine will be undertaken by Gardai later today.

Mr Darcy was rushed to hospital last night after he collapsed during the protest. He was also the owner of the digger which was destroyed.

Mr Darcy was brought to Ballinasloe hospital where he remained overnight.

Another demonstrator, Tom Ward was arrested by gardai during the protest. He was brought to Loughrea Garda Station but was later released and returned to the site, which is located about two miles outside Woodford in Galway.

Speaking at the site today, TD Luke Ming Flanagan said he was relieved the standoff had ended. However, he added that the overall issue of turf cutting rights remained and protesters would continue to cut turf in protected bogs.

Dermot Moran of the Barroughter and Clonmoylan Bogs Action Group said this was only stage one of their fight insisting locals would return to the bog as soon as they could.

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