Monday, June 20, 2011

Bog off

"It's some crack that we have a country in recession and virtually bankrupt but the authorities can afford to put a plane in the sky to spy on turf cutters," says Michael Fitzmaurice, breaking apart a piece of the black, natural fuel in his hands.

"During the cutting season we have had helicopters as well as planes, and we have had officials in vans scouting across the boglands to stop us doing what our ancestors did for centuries. And it's all because they are afraid that the EU will fine Ireland if turf cutting continues".

And, indeed they are. The EU has designated natural bogs as Special Area of Conservation and has ruled that no more turf cutting can take place there in order to preserve the bogs. But now that EU Commission claims it has aerial photos suggesting raised bogs in the Midlands are still being harvested for peat despite the ban.

But what the politicians have agreed between themselves, on the holy ground of Brussels – which isn't even organised enough to provide its own government - now has the Paddy plods scouring the country to put down the bog trotters.

Even the Brits, at their very worst, never attempted this. Another of the refusniks, Tom Gibney, has the deeds to this bog going back to British rule in 1896 framed in glass on my wall at home. "It still has the UK crown on the top of the document", he says, "and now that we are supposedly an independent country I am not giving it up and the right to cut a small piece of it for turf".

Whatever gave Gibney the idea that Ireland is an independent country is anyone's guess, but maybe he has been listening to too many politicians who, in between their Gadarene rush to dump powers in the hands of EU bureaucrats, are only too keen to perpetuate the fantasy that nothing much has changed.

So we end up with the battle of the bogs, the weapon of choice a "reasoned opinion" from Brussels, which has the plods scouring the countryside in helicopters to hunt down the perpetrators ... a bog standard response for an occupied country, one supposes. Sooner or later, though, someone is going to have to tell them to bog off.