Saturday 14 June 2008

Last turf cutting prompts calls to lift ban

LAST WEEK signalled what may be the end of an era at Askey bog in the Ballinagare area, if proposals to ban turf cutting in bogs in designated Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are enforced in early 2009.

The final cut at Askey bog, however, is seen as the final straw for owners of local bog plots, who are poised to mount a campaign in the coming months to overturn the decision to end existing turf cutting entitlements.

Legislative changes made in 2000 have paved the way for a total ban on turf cutting in areas of special conservation as of February 2009, meaning that this summer will be the last one for cutting turf on many bogs throughout Roscommon and the west of Ireland.

Eoin Harpur of Harpur Bros local turf cutting contractors, who carried out the final turf cutting at Askey bog last week, however, described the ban as a "short-sighted" move by the Government, which would affect many livelihoods.

At Askey bog alone, he said there were as many 200 people with a stake or plot at the bog, which was used as a year-round source of fuel for local families. In the Castlerea and Ballinlough area, Askey bog is just one of six bogs which will come under the ban as of 2009.

"The price of fuel such as oil and diesel has spiralled and people cannot afford to pay for oil to heat their homes. What compensation are they going to give us, absolutely zero? The bog is on our own back door, so why would we import oil for our houses? We're not just going to stand up and let our livelihoods pass away like that," Eoin said.

He also stressed that hopper cutters, which were mainly used today, had little impact on the fauna of the bog environment and that people had an entitlement to continue cutting turf, as they had done for years.

"It's very short-sighted of the Government. The people of Ballinagare and Frenchpark and other areas are coming together to organise meetings to lobby TDs on this and to get the decision overturned. Last week was the last cutting of the sod at Askey bog but we're going to fight that now," Eoin said.

Roscommon Herald

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