There was a dismal turn out to the turf cutters and contractors meeting for South Leitrim / West Cavan in the Commerical Hotel, Ballinamore last Wednesday night.
Those present resolved to say “no to relocation, no to compensation and no to selling” of their bog, they vowed to continue cutting turf no matter what, but the small number of support seemed to dampen the fight.
The meeting was held by Lough Sheelin Turfcutters and Contractors from Co Cavan. They arrived loaded with facts, history and a strong will to help create a local committee in the Ballinamore area. The focus was to bring a huge crowd to Dáil Eireann on March 7 to hold a peaceful protest during the vote brought by Luke Ming Flanagan on the rights of domestic turfcutters.
Local committees are being formed around the country to fight for the “right of the small people” - aka the turf cutters
Sean Reilly, Chairman of the Lough Sheelin Turfcutters said “We want to cut turf like our fathers did before for hundreds of years” he stated “no one from Europe is going to stop us.”
Eoin Reynolds also from the Cavan group said that only those with a folio number for the bog will get paid compensation and the person had to have used the bog for turf in the past five years. He also said that the compensation is €w1,000 per bog, which is unfair for those who own 30-40 acres of it as he said current “payments for the bog will stop” and be replaced by the compensation. The compensation is also inadequate Mr Reynolds said when compared to “Bord na Mona being offered €w50k per acre by Coillte.”
He said the turf cutters have not damaged the bog, but the state have under the names of Coillte, ESB and Bord na Mona. Mr Reynolds said the bog has been “raped by these people.”
In relation to Europe telling the country what to do Eoin Reynolds said “that is a dictatorship.” He commented “Germany have no sympathy for Ireland, they could vaporise us in the morning.”
Sinn Fein’s Cllr Martin Kenny said “nobody here is against protecting the environment, we are the custodians of the land.” He agreed with the speakers that “Coillte have destroyed the bogs for 30-40 years” as have Bord na Mona, and this is no comparison to domestic turfcutting. He said Sinn Fein will support Deputy Flanagan’s motion. Independent Cllr Gerry Dolan also attended the meeting.
The meeting was told to keep turfcutting despite being told not to and to raise money locally to help out “any contractor that goes to jail.” Those gathered were told that the National Parks are giving “verbal warnings” and want people to fill in forms.
A new turfcutting and contractors committee was set up on the night with Chairman Aiden Wynne, Vice Chair Oisin Barron, Secretary Mary Mulvey, Assistant secretary Maureen Mulvey and Treasurer Paddy Dolan.
Eoin Reynolds told the Leitrim Observer that the national Turfcutting Association “are preparing a case for European Courts.” He said Ireland is the only country in Europe where domestic turfcutting takes place. He said this makes “turf cutters an ethnic/ minority group” and he said these must be “protected” under the European Constitution.
Deputy Luke Ming Flangan could not be contacted by the paper, but his office told the Leitrim Observer that the independent TD’s motion on March 7 is in relation to the TCCA’s report which has released “alternative solutions” to relocation. Turfcutters and contractors are asked to take part in a peaceful demonstration on the day.
A follow up public meeting will be held this evening, Wednesday, February 22 at 9pm in Commercial Hotel, Ballinamore, where you can meet the new committee and get an update on the ban on turfcutting in the county. This ban according to the new committee “concerns both turf cutters and all who burn turf in their fires.”