War of words on illegal turf cutting

Deputy Luke Ming Flanagan enraged Justice Minister Alan Shatter last week in the Dáil by comparing the ban on turf-cutting to the laws of “Nazi Germany”. The row broke out during a debate last Thursday, May 17 on the cost of monitoring the ban on turf-cutting.

Deputy Luke Ming Flanagan enraged Justice Minister Alan Shatter last week in the Dáil by comparing the ban on turf-cutting to the laws of “Nazi Germany”.

The row broke out during a debate last Thursday, May 17 on the cost of monitoring the ban on turf-cutting.

Independent colleague, Deputy Mick Wallace asked the minister about the costs associated with the deployment of Air Corps flights to monitor activity on the country’s 55 conservation sites on raised bogs - where turf-cutting is outlawed.

Minister Shatter revealed “For these missions, the Cessna aircraft has been used and the average hourly direct cost of operating this aircraft which include fuel and maintenance costs is €185.

“The cost to date in 2012 of providing assistance to the NPWS is €13,875 based on approximately 75 hours of flying time.”

The Air Corps provide support to the civil authorities including Government agencies for monitoring activity.

Deputy Wallace suggested that the spending was a waste of resources, he said “At a time of such scarce resources, it is disappointing the Government sees fit to harass innocent rural people who are availing of their inalienable right to cut turf.”

The Justice Minister noted the fines that could be issued against the Irish state for turf cutting and commented “I am conscious that the Deputy has very little respect for the law and has seen fit to break it.”

Minister Shatter said he regrets the necessity to spend any resources in this area, but “it is because there are individuals who are intent on continuing to break the law.”

Deputy Flanagan intervened and said “They had laws in Nazi Germany too, but thank God some people broke them.”

Shatter immediately demanded for the remark to be withdrawn - but Flanagan ignored the call.

Minister Shatter then said that if Deputy Flanagan “If he is so foolish as to suggest that the difficulties in relation to the bogs replicate matters that happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s ... I would suggest he seek to educate himself on what occurred. If he thinks there is any comparison between the dispute he is continuing to maintain in relation to bogs and the death of 6 million people in the Holocaust, perhaps the Deputy will go and examine his conscience.”

The Roscommon South Leitrim TD interrupted the minister to retort yet again that “we are heading in that direction” (of Nazi Germany).

The clash continued as Deputy Flanagan was leaving the chamber. He said to Mr Shatter, “Do what you are told” and the minister retorted, “You are an ignorant buffoon.”

Deputy Flanagan told the chamber before he left, “I stand by what I said. There are times when responsible citizens break the law in the name of justice.”

It is understood that if suspected illegal activity is discovered personnel on the ground are notified and investigate on the ground level, often accompanied by the Garda.