The recent figures released by Minister Deenihan in relation to the number of people who have ceased to cut turf and/or have taken compensation are in direct conflict with the information at the disposal of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association. In 2012 twenty six of the so-called ‘SAC bogs’ were cut and in 2013 thirty of these so-called ‘SAC bogs’ were cut. By anyone’s maths this constitutes a rise in the amount of turf cutting taking place and not a 45% reduction as stated by the Minister.
Minister Deenihan is also claiming that the compensation payments have been a success whereas in reality they have been a complete and utter failure. Out of the 9,000 landowners and turbary rights holders on the 53 bog complexes only slightly more than 900 people have signed up to the final agreement. This amounts to a little over 10%. Minister Deenihan constantly states that the vast majority of turf cutters have ceased. How he can conclude that 10% is the vast majority of anything is beyond the TCCA’s comprehension.
He mentions in his press release that 3,800 compensation payments have been made’ to date. This remember is over a three year period which amounts to less than 1300 per year. The minister also likes to give the impression that people willingly took up this scheme. However the truth is that 90% did so as a result of coercion and bullying. Fears that the single farm payment would be cut were stoked up at every opportunity. Yet to date no one has been penalised. Now many of those who originally signed up have woken up to the dire consequences of signing a final agreement. At this stage the game is up for Minister Deenihan and it is either his fault or that of his department officials of whom he is so terrified to stand up to.
His press release also states that seven hundred and ninety turf cutters have indicated their interest in relocation. That’s all very well but given that successive governments over a sixteen year period have failed to solve even a single bog in the entire country its hard to see what is the relevance of those figures other than that the minister has now succeeded in alienating those who originally had faith in his scheme. The bogs that they claim are solved by relocation in Clara and East Galway are anything but solved. The TCCA are in contact with those people and their position is clear. They have been betrayed.
We also must respond to comments made by Minister Deenihan on local radio today in stating that turf cutters on NHA bogs were “probably contacted” in relation to having a ban imposed on them from January 2014. It’s hardly very reassuring when a minister speaks about a massive burden being put on ones land and then tells the citizen that sure they were ‘probably’ contacted. I wonder would Minister Deenihan be as blasé about his election literature being delivered to peoples door steps. We think not. In the same radio interview the Minister also blamed past governments for the consequences of regulations which his own Government signed in during their very first year in power. At what point will the minister take responsibility for his role in this whole fiasco?
Minister Deenihan can continue to act the ostrich and pretend that the matter is solved but in the meantime the ‘real’ vast majority will continue to vindicate their rights. Next time we do the local elections will be in full swing. Candidates from his party will then face the tough question as to why people are being threatened with jail for trying to keep their children warm in bed.
TCCA Press Release 09 October 2013