The Roscommon Turf Cutters' Association has issued a reminder to bog owners everywhere, that should they experience any interference in their work, the association will stand behind them and any queries, threats or directions should be referred to Paddy Concannon, Chairman.
The reminder comes following an incident in the Cloonkeen area of Castlerea recently, where some local landowners were threatened with legal proceedings by D??chas officials if they didn't cease drainage work that was being carried out on a bog. The association has accused D??chas officials of harassment of its members as they try to do "essential and routine maintenance work and low grade drainage". In a statement from the Roscommon Turf Cutters' Association released this week, it claims: "It now appears that while there are cutbacks in practically every area, no such cutbacks apply where domestic turf cutters are concerned. Each area now seems to have a person employed who will inform the local bog ranger if and when any necessary work is carried out." They argue that people should not be denied the very basic right of winter's fuel in this volatile and unstable economic climate. A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment and Local Government, which has responsibility for D??chas The Heritage Service, said that the area in question was a special area of conservation and that permission had to be sought from them before any maintenance work could be carried out. "If permission is denied there is an appeal process," the spokesperson added. However, the difficulty seems to lie in the fact that for most turf cutters, the bog has to be drained before the turf can be cut and this point is also supported by the Special Areas of Conservation Alliance, which is the umbrella group for Roscommon Turf Cutters' Association. Secretary of the alliance, S??le O'Connor argued that in order to cut your turf you have to prepare your bog. "We got a derogation for ten years from S??le deValera and three years of that are now gone," she said. According to her this derogation allowed turf cutters to do drainage on their property to salvage a crop each winter. "Either we have a derogation or we haven't," she continued. "The drains domestic turf cutters make are very small scale. "When they charge you it's a criminal offence, for something that people have been doing all their lives," S??le added. She explained that this was the reason, Paddy Concannon, Chairman of Roscommon Turf Cutters' Association was "prepared to take the flack". Members who are experiencing problems are asked to refer the matter to Paddy straight away. He can be contacted at 0907-20381. By Majella O'Sullivan Roscommon Herald
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