The news that four turf cutters have been sent summonses for doing what people have done for centuries is a final betrayal from a government which came to power on the back of a series of lies. As with so many organisations in the country the TCCA has been betrayed. The Taoiseach himself in a conversation with our Chairperson Michael Fitzmaurice in February of last year informed him that “turf cutters had been wronged”. Well if that is the case then why make the same mistakes all over again. In fact our Taoiseach has gone so far as to describe our Chairperson as a “patriot”. Our organisation happens to agree. He has however a funny way of treating a patriot.
The recommendations of Judge Quirks’ report on the pealtands forum have been ignored. He described turf cutters as “hardworking, decent, respectable and law abiding citizens”. This is not how we are being treated.
The TCCA has painstakingly put together detailed proposals which were accepted by our members. These were passed by Dáil Eireann on March 7th of last year. They had previously been described by Minister Deenihan as “That’s the way designations should have been done in the first place”.
If the government wants this situation resolved it needs to start listening to “patriots” like Michael Fitzmaurice. It need to follow through on its commitments made in Dáil Eireann on March 7th last. It needs to really start listening to the stakeholders and to stop the intimidation and threats. After sixteen years and €750 million, successive government have failed to resolve a single bog with active turf cutters. At this stage it should have become obvious that the only way of resolving this issue is to work with the stakeholders.
Last year people were constantly warned that they would face penalties to farm grants and outright prosecution if they cut their turf. This did succeed in bullying some people into applying for the compensation package. However the majority resisted and at the end of what was an atrociously wet year 26 out of the 29 SAC bogs which had been cut in 2011 were subsequently cut in 2012. As is the norm in any given year there was less cutting on some of these bogs and on others there was more activity.
One such example of a bog where more turf was cut is Moanveanlough in County Kerry. This bog happens to be in the neighbourhood of Minister Jimmy Deenihan. The curious thing for turf cutters in this and many other areas is how so many have apparently taken compensation yet at the same time so many are still cutting turf. Moanveanlough bog is a good example of this. Even though more people cut turf in 2012 than in 2011, 27 are still recorded as having applied for compensation. So either the department are paying people who do not satisfy the criteria of the scheme or they are massaging the figured to make the compensation scheme appear more successful than it actually is.
We have as an organisation fought this battle through many different fora. We will now it appears fight it through the courts. As always we are ready for the battle.
The TCCA are now asking all politicians regardless of political persuasion to condemn the act of summoning ordinary decent people to court for doing what they have for centuries. We are also asking that government politicians, who got elected on the back of promises to turf cutters which have now been reneged upon, to resign with immediate effect.
Regardless of threats of state intimidation against its own citizens we will again this year continue to do what we have for centuries. We will when the weather permits be vindicating our rights. We will not be run off our lands.