TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan made his way to Garrihy’s Bar in Moyasta last Thursday night where a new branch of the Turfcutters and Contractors Association was formed, with Padraig Haugh as chairman.
Mr Flanagan told The Clare Champion that around 200 people had been at the meeting adding that the national organisation is working to deal with the fallout from restrictions on turf cutting.
“The problem is how the birds and habitats directive was transposed into Irish law. The problem now is how we deal with that.
“We have two different routes we can go. One is where there is a good quality bog nearby, we try and identify a suitable bog for people to move to. If that isn’t feasible or if people don’t want to do that, we look to have that bog taken out of its current designation. That means either partially take it out or, in some cases, take the whole out of it.”
Regarding the meeting last Thursday the Roscommon and Leitrim South TD said, “There was a Clare branch of the Turfcutters and Contractors Association formed at it. We will be liasing with those people as to what they see as the solution for their particular area, whether it is feasible for some of them to move from the bog that they’re currently in to one that’s close by with good quality turf, or whether that isn’t possible. If that isn’t possible we’d be putting that into our plan as one of the bogs to be de-designated.”
A sizeable number of people benefit from turf cutting.
“Under the 55 bogs, we estimate that in the region of 16 to 17 thousand people are affected by it. While there aren’t that many who own individual banks, that’s how many would be affected. For example, I’ve only one turf bank but my aunt and my sister also cut on it. There would be three people affected there.”
A few bogs in Clare are being put off limits he said. “Tullaher Lough and bog is the first one that’s affected under the Special Area of Conservation designation and then there are another four in other parts of Clare.”
He feels it is important to get in touch with people who are affected and he said that people were very pleased that the Moyasta meeting took place.
“We hold the meetings for three reasons, first to inform people of what’s going on, to consult with people and to organise. People were delighted to be informed of what’s going on because the State hasn’t done that to a sufficient level.
“People feel they’re left in the dark on this and we were told by many people after the meeting that they were absolutely elated that we had come down and that someone is going to try and represent them on this issue.”
Padraig Haugh said the right to cut turf has been held for centuries.
“This is something that we have had a right to do for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. I couldn’t tell you how far back it goes but I started farming in 1948 and every year since then I’ve cut turf.”
He cuts his turf at Tullaher Lough and says that people are very determined that their rights will be preserved.
“We, as turf cutters, will be defending our rights that are centuries old. How they will be maintained I couldn’t tell you right now. We will have a series of meetings in the county and central Ireland and possibly demonstrations if we’re not successful, I don’t really know. But I do
know the people I’m involved with are very adamant that they will continue to cut turf.”
He said people who can’t afford alternative means of heating would find a ban on turf cutting very difficult.