The TCCA welcomes some aspects of the government moves on turf cuttng. The promised and long called for de-designation of many NHAs and the recognition by the department of the TCCAs concept of compensatory bogs.

However with anything the devil is in the detail and that detail must be analysed before we give our conclusive final response. On initial reading of the information provided the most worrying aspect is the following statement

” The strategy also sets out proposals for the development of a new regulatory regime for turf contractors.”

What exactly does this mean? Will we see a situation whereby the regulations are so onerous that it becomes impractical for contractors to actually cut. Will people see their bog de-designated but at the end of the day not be able to get a contractor to cut for them. Our initial information is that this could be a major problem.

On the NHA bogs which are not being de-designated people are now being told that they can be relocated by 2017 and in the meantime apply for a permit to continue cutting or to take compensation. However successive governments have had 18 years to relocate people from SACs and to date not one single bog has been solved. The reason being is that people are not being offered like for like for their property. People who own bog and those with turbary rights are instead being offered licenses to cut for a defined period. If the government try the same trick on the NHAs then this issue won’t be solved even if they give 1000 years to relocate. For those who cut turf on these bogs this is a major concern.

In relation to compensatory habitat it is heartening to see the government accept the concept. The idea behind it was that other areas of bog, where turf cutting was not taking place, could be designated instead. However some areas identified by the government to be newly designated do in fact have turf cut on them. This needs to be looked at again. Also some of the bogs are those which have been identified by the TCCA as alternatives for turf cutters on SACs.

We are told that there are 25 new bogs for designation and that they will come from both public and private sources. The TCCA is calling on the Government to use only state owned bogs and that no new turf cutters should be affected.

The most disappointing aspect of today’s announcement is the lack of any real progress on the so called SACs. We will still see a situation this year whereby turf cutters and contractors will face the threat of court and jail for cutting their turf on these 53 bogs. That situation must be rectified and the TCCA have a clear road map to solving it which the government are not carrying out as promised.

Obviously the TCCA welcome any moves to de-designate bogs which turf is cut on. However we are also aware that there are two elections coming up both local and European. Turf cutters have before been promised many things in advance of an election only to be betrayed within weeks of the result being announced. We heard it in 2011 where FG deputies said that if they were in government people would be able to go ahead and cut their turf. We all know what happened. Before the ink was dry on Enda Kennys first signature as Taoiseach turf cutters on the affected bogs were being castigated as “bad citizens” and “criminals” for trying to warm their children’s feet.

Whatever the final result of all this it is very clear that without the TCCA this battle would already be lost. We will continue to fight this fight until we get what is rightfully ours. Justice.

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