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Turf cutters fear for their livelihoods 15.09.08

INISHOWEN turf cutters gathered in large numbers last week to protect their long tradition of harvesting their own local source of fuel.
Senator Cecilia Keaveney who attended the meeting, fully backed the campaign by turf cutters on the Magheradrommond bog between Quigley's Point and Carndonagh. They have now been told that, despite it being a blanket and not raised bog, the 3000-acre Magheradrommand falls within a special area of conservation (SAC) and must be protected.
"I have been told repeatedly that raised bogs are the bogs that were causing environmental concern. They were to be bought out, compensation awarded and, where possible, those who wished to continue would be relocated to other bogland.
"It was clearly stated that blanket bogs were not under discussion or threat.
Donegal only has blanket bog. Those who are telling us now that the goalposts have been moved slightly to include just one bog in Donegal, which is in a SAC, have questions to answer," said Senator Keaveney.
She said some people in the National Parks and Wildlife Service had indicated they did not know why this bog was singled out for special attention.
"When we look to the realities of what is being cut, it is a relatively small amount. When we look to the environmental argument, we hear the admission that there are much more environmentally-sensitive areas. When we look to historical practice and tradition there remains the fact that people have turbary rights written into their deeds," added the Moville-based senator.
She said that in an era of soaring oil and gas prices it was perhaps the "endangered species of the traditional turf cutter that needs protected most".
She said she had spoken to Rural Affairs Minister Eamon O Cuív who reiterated his belief that people on blanket bogs were entitled to cut turf whether in an SAC or not.
Meanwhile, Senator Keaveney pledged to arrange a meeting between the local turf cutters and Enviroment Minister John Gormley in a bid to clarify the issue.
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