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.