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Turf cutters – why are you taking the fall for Government inaction and incompetence? Do you really want to go to jail because successive elected officials and civil servants have undermined your way of life?

Do you really think you should go to jail while Bord na Mona and Bulrush and Westlands – the last two from across the border – are cutting away vast sections of raised bog with no planning permission and against EU law for Environmental Impact Assessment?

Do you remember December 1999 and an advertisement that appeared in your local paper telling you to stop cutting in March? You thought the Government backed down. Do you remember the Labour Party Conference in 2011? You thought the Government backed down. Do you remember the visits by Minister to turf cutting rallies this year? You thought the Government backed down. Did you meet Conor Skehan this year and were you told you would be able to cut away and your children would be able to cut away?

False hope was what you have been given – and up the garden path you have been led.

If the powers-that-be had from the outset talked to you and to the scientists and produced MANAGEMENT PLANS you would not be facing jail next year. Why are turf cutters in Northern Ireland and charcoal makers in Spain allowed to continue in SACs? (Not that we support this – but it could have happened. And the deal might have included restoration, which isn’t happening now.)

But because the Department of the Environment couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, its too late now. Because of their utter contempt for European law they didn’t think they had to bother with the Habitats Directive. You got the politicians you deserved and now you must pay for it. Your own leader is setting this up as a cynical play to keep himself in the Dail as long as he has breath left in his body.

The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Commissioner have to defend the European Treaty. They have to enforce the Habitats Directive. The EU Commissioner for the environment believes that it is his job to defend the European Treaty and he is an honourable man who will do his job.

They will enforce stringent measures it in Malta where citizens believe it is their right to shoot birds. They will enforce draconian penalties it in Sweden where citizens want to shoot the wolves. And they will enforce these laws in Ireland where you want to cut turf – or every citizen will have to contribute to a fine of millions of euro at a time when none of us have any money.

You can not win because your Government didn’t fight your fight when it had the chance. What good did Shell To Sea supporters going to jail do?

If the Government really cared about the environment of your bogs they would have been in there closing off the drains, because it is the drainage that causes the damage and the drainage is still ongoing. They don’t give a damn for the environment. They just wanted to get re-elected, and they sold you a bag of soot.

Why should you punish yourself by going to jail when it is the Ministers of the time and the civil servants – many of them still there – who should be suffering for the lose of your traditional rights? Don’t do it. Help us get the big boys. Help us end all turf cutting in Ireland – with proper compensation where it is deserved – and make those who are really to blame take the penalties – not you.

Friends of the Irish Turf Cutters

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Village Magazine.