The Petition seeks the Commissions assistance in ending not only the turf cutting taking place on special areas of conservation, but also the unlicensed and unregulated industrial extraction which is continuing across the midlands. FIE is making a formal request for the Petitions Committee to come to Ireland on a fact-finding mission. ‘If Committee members see first-hand what is happening, we believe they will be strongly motivated to act.'
FIE has provided the Commission with two detailed reports over the past 18 months, one on the widespread industrial extraction from unprotected raised bogs in the midlands and the other on continued cutting on the country's most protected bogs.
In an unprecedented move, the Commission has questioned Ireland's ‘loyal cooperation', one of the most serious charges that can be levelled against a member state.
A previous judgment against Ireland in 1999 led to a request to the Court for daily fines, a action withdrawn in 2005 after undertakings were given by Ireland to protect its bogs. One operation cited in the 1999 ECJ judgement against Ireland for failure to assess its impact continues operation to this day still without an assessment - 12 years later.
‘The level of mechanical destruction we have recorded is savage', a spokesman for the group said. ‘Even our own members were shocked at the scale of what is going on'.
• Notifying landowners of national monuments on their lands.
• Strengthening the forthcoming designation process for Natural Heritage Areas by the inclusion of Notifiable Actions in the notification to Landowners - to these ensure landowners know what they are supposed to protect.
• Stronger statutory standing for the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition [GAEC] SMRs 1 and SMR 5 covering the conservation of wild birds and the conservation of natural habitats and wild flora and fauna, wherever they occur - administered already as part of the EU Area Aid.
• An increase in the current level of inspections for these Conditions from 1% to 5% to be undertaken jointly with the Department of the Environment, as well as ensuring that complaints from members of the public are addressed through a open and transparent process with statutory standing.
Ireland has failed to adopt new legislation to protect the countryside in spite of repeated warnings and comprehensive dossiers supplied to them by this organisation and others documenting the variety and pace of destructions.
While on the one hand advertising and relying on Ireland's landscape and cultural heritage to support a Green image and international tourism, the authorities have done nothing to stop the disfiguring of protected landscapes by bungalow blight, the loss of wetlands to farm ‘improvements', and the destruction of countless archaeological sites - especially ringforts - across the country.
Only last week FIE was informed it was too late to amend the proposed National Monuments Bill to ensure that landowners knew what they were responsible for. The move follows a new warning last week to Ireland over continuing turf cutting in protected raised bogs.
A spokesman for Friends of the Irish Environment said that ‘the practice of the EPA in allowing operators to continue unlicensed activities while they consider a license application meant that for 5 years ISPAT operated there with government grants, no licensce, and no planning permission.'
‘Only last week in a written Parliamentary reply to Independent Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, the Minister for the Environment claimed to the Deputy that he was powerless to intervene in cases where the EPA continues to allow unlicensed operators to continue work while a license is under consideration.