Ireland: Turf cutters against the EU
23 June 2011
An EU environmental directive intended to protect boglands has pitched Irish farmers, protecting their traditional rights to cut turf, against environmentalists and the government.
Down in the bog, amid a field of black strips of turf stacked like Jenga sticks, Michael Fitzmaurice looks up defiantly at the plane snooping on his industry.
The aircraft is on the lookout for anyone still cutting, piling or collecting turf – an endeavour that the EU deems illegal.
"It's some craic that we have a country in recession and virtually bankrupt but the authorities can afford to put a plane in the sky to spy on turf cutters," he says breaking apart a piece of the black, natural fuel in his hands.
"During the cutting season we have had helicopters as well as planes, and we have had officials in vans scouting across the boglands to stop us doing what our ancestors did for centuries.
"And it's all because they are afraid that the EU will fine Ireland if turf cutting continues."
The EU has designated this springy, soggy piece of Irish earth a Special Area of Conservation and has ruled that no more turf cutting can take place there in order to preserve the bogs.
The Irish government is concerned that the EU will levy heavy fines on the republic for flouting environmental directives laid down 14 years ago. But Fitzmaurice, 43, who started turf cutting with his father when he was four, rejects the notion that his government has to adhere to Brussel's environmental edict because Ireland owes so much to the EU. "It wasn't turf cutters and their families who bankrupted this country. It was the banks and the builders and their politician friends who got Ireland into such a mess. "We are not responsible for that so why should we pay such a massive price just to do what Europe says." Read full article in the Guardian...