Scarred Landscapes

The topic which I have chosen to do my thesis on is about the future of bogs in Ireland. My research will be based around resource utilisation conflicts and it will involve the social and environmental changes in Ireland’s peatlands at present and in the future. One of the main reasons for this is because there have been some recent publicity on the debates about the rights to cutting turf on bogs. The Turf Cutters and Contractors Association (TCCA) which can be found here are “a voluntary group based in the west of Ireland which is opposed to a European Union (EU) directive to outlaw turf cutting on family bogs”. They argue that “turf cutting & conservation can co-exist”. A copy of the TCCA submission to the Interdepartmental Committee on the Cessation of Turf Cutting can be found here.

The future of turf cutting in Ireland looks bleak as numerous bogs are being shut down every year and what was once a way of life in Ireland, is now rapidly becoming obsolete. Generations of turf cutters are fighting a losing battle not just because of governmental control but because this is becoming an issue with the European Union. The Habitats Directive “forms the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy” see here. This directive protects over 200 “habitat types” (e.g. special types of forests, meadows, wetlands, etc.), which are of European importance” and this includes a portion of Ireland’s bog lands.

The Irish Peatlands Conservation Council (IPCC) was set up in 1982 and have done a vast amount of work in trying to conserve Irish peatlands see here. They run the Bog of Allen Nature Centre, Lullymore, Rathangan, Co. Kildare where the public can go and see the work that they have done. The semi-state company Bord na Móna are also part of the discussions because of their huge involvement in the Irish peatlands since the mid-1900s. You can read all about it here.

The main reason why I want to delve into this area is because these issues affect my own family as I come from a generation of turf cutters. By making this my thesis topic, I can really explore every aspect of Ireland’s bog lands starting from the beginning of turf cutting to the point where we are now and beyond into the future.

I am going to do this by holding interviews with some of the key players to find out what their plans are to solve these issues. In relation to Bord na Móna I want to know what they plan to do with the peatlands when they have finished with them. I will also use a questionnaire about turf cutting in Ireland and distribute it to people who are use turf as fuel to get a general sense of how they feel about the Habitats Directive and ban on turf cutting. I want to find out where Ireland sits in relation to other countries in similar situations and if we are in a better position or not and what policies do these countries have in place fro their natural landscapes.

Claire Redmond

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3 comments

  1. Great thesis topic Claire!! There is much controversy over the turf cutting ban at the moment, and the debate is becoming more heated as time passes. I, myself also come from a turf cutting background. We cut turf in Coolronan, Co Meath and the locals in the area take great pride in cutting, footing and drawing home turf. It is part of our culture.

    Since we have joined Europe, we have lost so much of our Irish identity, much of everyday life is Eurocentric. Groups like Foras na Gaeilge (a governing body responsible for the promotion of the language throughout Ireland); the Irish Countrywomen’s Association groups working to retain rural crafts and traditions; Comhaltras who work promoting traditional Irish music and many more work so hard to retain our Irish culture and identity. Turf cutting is almost considered ritualistic in parts of Ireland. It is a very important part of our culture and has been passed on from generation to generation. Why is turf cutting not promoted is the same way as the Irish language, music etc???

    Traditions and ways of life associated with bogs stretch back beyond folk memory to the very roots of our society. They are an essential element of our cultural heritage, and are important to our understanding of ourselves as a people and a country. Turf cutting is a way of life for many in Ireland and more power to the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association in their fight against the loss of so much of our Irish identity!!

    Best of luck with your thesis 🙂

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  2. Hi,
    I suggest you read “Contested Boundaries, Contested Places: An Exploration of Ireland’s Contribution to Natura 2000” – Sharon Bryan, Trinity College Dublin (2009).

    Abstract here :- http://www.epa.ie/researchandeducation/research/capacity/doctoral/abstract-sharonbryantcd/

    …. but read the whole thing ….

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  3. Sharon Bryan · · Reply

    Hi Clare
    I am delighted to hear someone is interested in my thesis! I’d love to chat with you about your research sometime. Although based in Exeter I’m in Ireland quite a bit. Best of luck with your thesis!
    Sharon

    Like

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