Ballivor families fighting for the right to cut turf

A large group of families who rely on the Lisclogher Bog near Ballivor to heat their homes, travelled to Clara Co Offaly on Tuesday for a major rally to demand the right to cut turf this year.

As fuel prices soar, more than 300 families that have always relied on turf from Lisclogher bog, are worried they may not have a fuel supply next winter.

Christina Devine, whose family rely on turf from Lisclogher Bog said that instead of an immediate end to turf cutting, it should be phased out over several years to allow families make alternative arrangements.

“We need to fight for the right to heat our homes.

“Bord na Mona have locked people out of turf banks they have used for generations,” she said.

Bord na Mona, who own the bog ceased turf cutting in 2019, but the situation for communities who harvested turf under licence from the company is unclear.

The gathering in Clara was made up of representatives of the Lisclogher families, as well as people relying on bogs across the midlands and in the west and TDs from the areas affected,.

Deputy Johnny Guirke who travelled to Clara said "The government should do all in its power to re-open the bogs for domestic use.

”Over 300 families in Ballivor, Delvin, Raharney and surrounding areas have relied solely on turf cutting for years.

“It is shocking that they may lose their only source of home heating in the middle of a fuel crisis.

“For many of them it’s the cheapest way to heat their homes as spiralling costs are hitting families hard.

“Turf cutting could be phased out over a time span so that the rug won’t be pulled from out under them,” he said.

At the meeting, plans were made to set up a co-operative to deal with Bord na Mona, at the suggrestion of Deputy Barry Cowan who said he would work with the co operative in their dealings with the company.

“We all understand the mass extraction of peat cannot continue but what we are talking about is less than one per cent of Bord na Mona lands,” said Ms Devine.

She said that for many families, there only source of fuel is the turf from Lisclogher bog.

“Hundreds of house holders rely on turf for their stoves, solid fuel cookers and boilers.

“We are promised all sorts of incentives down the line to retrofit our homes, but they are not in place yet and wont cover all the cost.

“We need a phasing-out approach for turf cutting licences, so that people have time to make alternative arrangement.

“A lot of those relying on the turf are older people who live in remote areas and are very worried they wont be able to heat their homes next winter.

“If it was a phased process they could take steps to source alternative fuels or install different heating systems, but it is terrible if they just find themselves without turf all of a sudden.

For many years, contractors, like Ms Devine's husband, cut the turf on the Bord na Mona bog under licence and laid it out for the various families who then save the turf themselves.

“We are in the middle of a fuel crisis and there are a lot of people who have no other way to heat their homes. They are totally reliant on turf. My own home is completely dependent on turf.”

“We want Bord na Mona to give us a number of years , so we can change to alternative methods of heat."

Bord na Mona has been approached for comment.