Rights of Ownership

When I was growing up in County Galway, the custom of cutting turf and bringing it home to heat the house for the winter was a way of life. We went to the bog in a stretch of fine weather, cut turf, turned it to dry, stacked it in grogeens to dry more, bagged it, and took it home in kreels.

An entire list of words that are only associated with turf, groogeens, kreels, clamps, known only to those who cut turf yearly. Just a natural way of life for us.

Since June 2012 there has been a furor in my part of the country because of illegal turf cutting on a Special Area of Conservation designated EU raised bog.

I have learned a lot about land ownership rights because of this contentious issue, and feel absolutely torn because of it.

Bog owners were given ten years to relocate to new bogs and told not to cut turf on their raised bog. They will allegedly get $1,500 Euro per year, or get a relocation bog, or get turf delivered to them upon signing in agreement to cease cutting turf.

The raised bogs are protected as SAC’s because of their unique foliage and fauna, and their ability to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide.

Turf cutters have been arrested and protestors are commonplace now outside the court houses when their cases are being heard. 24/7 police surveillance at the Clonmoylan bog in County Galway is a common sight now. Coast guard airplanes take photos of turf cutters etc. National Parks and Wildlife Services rangers have received threats from bog owners etc.

2% of the raised bogs in Ireland are SACs. Bord na Mona, the Irish Turf Board, a government owned entity, has basically strip mined the bogs in the country’s interior and are shipping some peat to the USA to make Puraflo filtration systems. The raised bogs owned by Bord na Mona are so badly desecrated they are no longer worth saving.

I did a bit of research about the Scottish model of SACs Raised Bogs and it turns out that two multinationals, Scotts and Diageo are persisting in cutting raised bogs, a direct challenge to EU directives according to Corporate Watch.

The whole thing about the illegal turf cutting made me think, do we really “own” anything? I think we need to come to terms with the fact that we really “own” nothing. At best we have shared ownership rights, which means nothing, because we share ownership with the government.

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6 thoughts on “Rights of Ownership

  1. Although there are rights of ownership, there are also planning laws which are there for the ‘common good’. One cannot do what one likes with property, private or otherwise. If a land owner had free rights to do as he/she chooses, then imagine the consequences: mines on people’s doorsteps, pig farms over the back garden wall, nuclear power stations in the centre of towns etc. etc. Hence, private property laws are subject to legislation which aims to protect the ‘common good’. In Ireland, the constitution is the over-riding legislative instrument and the ban on turf cutting on the 53 designated raised bogs is not unconstitutional as it’s for the ‘common good’ of the majority of Irish citizens both living and yet to be born.

    • Understandable that we have to have planning rights. One only has to watch Gas Land to see what horrible things can happen if we don’t keep an eye on things. But isn’t it sad though Conor that Bord na Mona has continued to destroy all raised bogs in their possession? To me that signifies that the government can do whatever it wants, but private citizens are to be held accountable. It is no different here in the US. “Fracking” used when extracting gas/oil from shale as you probably know, causes a huge amount of controversy here.

      I thank you again for the comment. This is what people who think critically about issues do, they talk about it. If you read my “About Me” page I state that the reason for this blog is primarily to show evolution of thought. Opinions should not be stagnant. I still have empathy for the Clonmoylan Group, and I wish there was some way to make the transition easier, but I don’t believe there is an easier way.

      Ideally, Bord na Mona should have ceased the destruction of raised bogs they owned in 1997, or earlier. Then the 2% of protected bogs would come from them.

      • I couldn’t agree more, Bord na Mona should have been stopped decades ago but, 20 to 30 years ago, no one in Ireland realised the value of these bogs and, being so large, no one ever expected that they’d come to an end.

        In the ’70s and ’80s, farsighted Dutch people started buying bogs in Ireland to ensure that some at least would be conserved.

        This week, on one of the turf cutters’ FB pages, a photograph of an alleged note by a 92 year-old person was posted. The noted stated that, in the person’s 92 years, they’d never been cold but now, because of the turf cutting ban, they didn’t know what the future would hold. If the note was real the person either didn’t understand the situation or they’d been frightened by misinformation from the contractors into thinking they’d have no turf to warm themselves in the future.

        This scaremongering by the contractors is disgraceful as it is completely untrue and, if this person accepted the offered deal, they would be provided with free turf for the rest of their life. However, the contractors continue to use such tactics to frighten and worry elderly people into supporting them.

  2. This was fascinating, Loretto. Thank you. Especially as I am not of Irish descent (though the other half is). 🙂 I know what Mona means now. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Divide and Conquer | Breise! Breise! Extra! Extra!

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