The government is being urged to provide protection for turf cutting as a ‘cultural practice’ under EU or international regulation.

Independent TD Carol Nolan has said today (Monday, April 12) that she has written to Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin in an effort to investigate if traditional turf cutting practices can be protected under EU or international conventions.

The Laois-Offaly TD made the move after what she said were increasing concerns that people who had engaged in turf cutting for home heat and cultural reasons were “effectively being subject to a process amounting to creeping criminalisation”.

“We all know that over the last number of years the EU, in the form of the Habitats Directive, has introduced robust laws around what can and cannot be done in rural Ireland.

“But we also know that there are other international conventions such as the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, also known as the Faro Framework,” Nolan outlined.

Nolan explained that this convention calls on states to recognise that rights relating to cultural heritage are “inherent in the right to participate in cultural life”.

“For the purposes of that convention, cultural heritage is defined as a group of resources inherited from the past with which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their traditions,” she noted.

“It is also quite clear that a heritage community consists of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations.

“There is a great degree of overlap between what the convention says and what those who engage in traditional turf cutting have always done,” Nolan suggested.

She argued that, while the home heating aspect of turf cutting is “critically important”, the cultural and heritage angle to the issue is “often overlooked”.

“Turf cutters deserve the full protection of the law, both domestic and international,” the deputy insisted.