While recalling his days of backbreaking work on the bog in Laois, Senator John Whelan has condemned turfcutters who defied a government ban and cut turf on bogs designated as conservation areas.
The Monasterevin native describing himself as “hailing from the bogs in the heart of Laois-Offaly” recalled turfcutting with his grandfather, father and children.
” I know it is back-breaking work and that turbary rights are jealously guarded in families,” he said, while slamming the recent defiance of the ban.
“I am horrified to see the wanton destruction of some of these protected bogland sites in the west of Ireland. This was no family legitimately trying to salvage fuel for the winter but the highly organised commercial harvesting of turf in brazen defiance of the authorities and with no regard for anyone else, much less the precious environment,” he said.
An EU ruling designated 53 bogs in Ireland as unique natural habitats, banning turfcutting permanently. Two are in Laois, at Knockacollier and Coolrain bogs near Portlaoise. Last year some plot owners there defied the ban and had their turf machine cut. 82 plot owners there have registered for compensation.
This is in the form of an annual payment of €1,500 for 15 years, replacement turf deliveries, or a replacement plot. The government face daily fines of €25,000 if cutting continues.
Senator Whelan says bogs are as important as priceless historic artefacts.
“Ireland’s raised bogs are unique in Europe, preserve a wealth of wildlife and are a fundamentally important part of our heritage and landscape. They are also important carbon sinks and play a significant role in flood protection. If lost, they will be gone forever,” he said.