Date set for trial of turfcutters

The trial of two men who are charged with moving turf-cutting machinery onto protected bog land in East Galway six years ago, has been set down for hearing next March.

The pair, along with two other Galway turf-cutters, were initially charged in 2013 with the alleged cutting of protected turf at Clonmoylan Bog, near Killimor on May 22, 23 and August 2 2012.

Michael Darcy (45) from Ballycahill, Killimor, and Padraic Byrne (59) from Main Street, Killimor, appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court, along with co-accused, Pat McDonagh (45) from Portumna; and Anthony Porter (46) from Woodford.

The men were the first to be prosecuted by the State after more stringent restrictions were imposed on turf cutting in 53 Irish bogs in 2011 under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations.

All four were sent forward for trial in March 2014 to the Circuit Criminal Court in Galway but their trials were delayed on several occasions since then as other turf-cutters in Kerry sought judicial review through the higher courts, testing the constitutionality of their prosecutions for similar offences.

The Circuit Court, High Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal all held that the Kerry prosecutions were constitutional and the matter ended up before the Supreme Court last year for final consideration.

That court gave its decision a few weeks ago, stating the Kerry prosecutions were constitutional.

Following that decision, the four Galway cases were listed before Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week to set trial dates.

It was agreed between defence barrister Conal McCarthy and State solicitor for East Galway, Tom McLoughlin, that the trial of Michael Darcy and Padraic Byrne should take place first.

Judge Rory McCabe listed both men’s trial for March 26 next year and he adjourned the other men’s cases to that date also for mention only.

A fifth man, Patrick Lavin, from Mullen, Frenchpark, Roscommon, is also charged with cutting turf on a protected bog near Ballymoe on the Galway/Roscommon border on June 28, 2013. His case has been listed for mention also on March 26 next.