€5,000 fine issued for illegal turf-cutting in Westmeath

A fine amounting to €5,000 was issued to an individual for illegal turf-cutting on a bog deemed to be a Natural Heritage Area (NHA) in Co. Westmeath, Minister of State with responsibility for heritage Malcolm Noonan has confirmed.

In a statement about a recent case taken by the National Park and Wildlife Service (NPWS) regarding Milltownpass Bog NHA in Co. Westmeath, Minister Noonan said:

“My department, as result of serious and ongoing dumping, trespass and environmental damage to Milltownpass Bog NHA, Co. Westmeath, was recently obliged, in furtherance of its obligations under the Wildlife Acts, to obtain an Order of the High Court in order to have these activities stopped and to prevent further damage to the NHA.”

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage also instigated prosecution proceedings through the District Court arising from unlawful turf-cutting on the bog which had taken place in the summer of 2019, the minister added.

These proceedings were successful and resulted in a fine in the region of €5,000 being imposed on an individual for illegal turf cutting.

“Incidents such as this of dumping, trespass and environmental damage which occur on protected sites [Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Natural Heritage Areas] need to be dealt with, and if necessary through the courts, in order to protect such sites,” Minister Noonan added.

The minister stressed that it was better to manage such protected sites “without, if possible, recourse to the courts in a spirit of cooperation and agreement with landowners, farmers and the wider public in order to protect the ecological integrity of such sites”.

I encourage landowners, farmers and recreational users of publicly accessible land to act responsibly at all times, to be mindful of nature conservation and, particularly, the requirements in relation to sites protected for nature conservation under law.

“We must be mindful of the need to respect the environment and to appreciate the value of our natural heritage, particularly in our national parks, nature reserves and protected sites,” Minister Noonan concluded.