Up to 200 turfcutter supporters, accompanied by Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, held a silent protest outside Galway Courthouse yesterday, as four South Galway turfcutters appeared in court accused of illegally cutting turf in a Woodford bog.
Micheal D’Arcy, Patrick McDonagh, Anthony Porter and Padraic Byrn are charged under sections 36(1)B and 67(2) of the European Communities (Bords and Natural Habitats) regulations, 2011. The charges relate to three separate incidents at different locations around Clonmoylan Bog, near Woodford, in May and August 2012.
Judge Keenan Johnson referred the case to be heard on 2 July, pending the disclosure of further documentation from the court.
Outside the court, groups from across the country, including Kerry and Edenderry, took part in the demonstration, raising a cheer for the men once the case was adjourned.
Led by a man playing the bodhrán, the group made their way up Eglinton Street and into Eyre Square before gathering at the statue of Liam Mellows. As members held banners calling for ‘our bogs, our turf, our country’ and ‘Irish bogs for Irish people’, one of the organisers spoke of the plight of turfcutters in Ireland and stated that it was “rather ironic” that such a protest was taking place at a landmark in memory of one of the members of the 1916 Rising.
The case was directed to the Circuit Court following a sitting of Gort District Court in March, which heard that the turf cutters had allegedly displayed “widespread disregard for regulations” and caused “fear for the safety” of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) rangers present at Clonmoylan Bog.
If convicted on indictment, the men face a fine of up to €500,000, up to three years in prison, or both. The men could also be liable to pay the costs of the prosecution, including the costs of the Minister or an officer of the Minister who brought the proceedings.