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Saturday 18 November 2017

Turf-cutter in hospital after digger is destroyed during bog stand-off

Michael
Darcy in
Portiuncula
Hospital,
Ballinasloe,
Co Galway
Michael Darcy in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

A TURF cutter who collapsed during a stand-off with gardai has told how his livelihood is in tatters following the destruction of his digger.

Michael Darcy (42) was at the heart of the 24-hour stand-off between protesters and gardai at Clonmoylan bog, near Portumna in Co Galway, which began after turf cutters were removed from the bog.

Mr Darcy's digger went on fire after it had been impounded in the bog by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and attempts had been made by a company employed by the NPWS to start it without the key.

Last night it remained unclear how the fire started or who would pay for the replacement of the destroyed vehicle.

Mr Darcy claimed last night that while rangers for the NPWS had impounded his digger and turf-cutting machine, gardai had never provided him with a seizure order.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Mr Darcy told the Irish Independent: "I'm totally disheartened. My livelihood is at risk over this. I specialised in bog work all my life -- I don't have any other machines.

"I have a big overdraft almost up to the limit, I have a big diesel bill. I have thousands of euro in repayments each month on machinery. I don't know what I'll do."

The incident led to a major stand-off between up to 250 protesters and gardai after attempts were made to stop officials removing equipment.

In the early hours of yesterday morning the digger went on fire while in the custody of the NPWS.

It is not clear how the fire started but it is believed that wiring may have caused a spark after NPWS rangers attempted to move the digger.

Officers had been attempting to move the digger onto a lorry to remove it from the bog. However, when the stand-off with protesters occurred they returned it to the bog. The fire broke out at 3.30 yesterday morning.

Impounded

The machine was later sealed off as gardai carried out an examination into the fire yesterday. It remains on bogland at the scene. A garda investigation into the cause of the fire will now take place.

The Galway man must now await his discharge from hospital before he can contact his solicitor on the matter.

He said a replacement digger could now cost him in the range of €50,000. He is also concerned that his turf cutter may have been damaged when it was seized.

The incident ended yesterday afternoon after authorities agreed to released the impounded turf cutter.

One protester said the outcome had been a "victory for common sense".

Protesters gathered at Clonmoylan bog near Portumna in Co Galway from Wednesday afternoon in support of local turf cutters who had been removed from the bog earlier that day. They blocked the roads, stopping members of the National Parks and Wildlife Service from removing a hopper machine that they had impounded.

The impasse continued overnight and into yesterday afternoon before authorities finally agreed to release the machine.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan attended the scene. After negotiations between gardai and protesters, the hopper machine seized by gardai was returned to Mr Darcy. An examination of the machine was later undertaken by gardai at Mr Darcy's yard.

While the standoff was at an end, locals were determined that the fight would continue. Dermot Moran of the Barroughter and Clonmoylan Bogs Action Group said this was only stage one of their fight and insisted that locals would return to the bog as soon as they could.

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 Co Galway.

Ireland is required to protect and conserve important peatland habitats on raised bogs under the EU Habitat's Directive. A European Commission spokesman said it was watching events in Ireland.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he fully supported the gardai in their stance at Clonmoylan bog.

Irish Independent

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