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15 Aug 2022

Waste material has been illegally dumped at National Heritage Area in midlands bog, court told

High Court

Waste material has been illegally dumped at National Heritage Area in midlands bog, court told

The Four Courts, Dublin

Waste material including scrap metal and fuel have been dumped on and turf has been illegally cut on a midlands bog that is a designated National Heritage Area, the High Court has heard.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has brought proceedings against Mr Daragh Coyne who it is claimed has engaged in activities that have resulted in damage to Milltownpass Bog, in Co Westmeath which has been a designated NHA for several years.

The Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which is responsible for the service, previously obtained temporary injunctions preventing Mr Coyne from carrying out any unauthorised works on or interfering with the NHA.

The lands in question where the illegal activities are alleged to have taken place are owned by both the Minister, and by a member of Mr Coyne's family, the court heard.

Mr Coyne, of Coralstown, Mullingar Co Westmeath, denies any wrongdoing.

The orders were sought by lawyers representing the Minister after the service said that earlier this year Park Rangers had inspected and found a dozen mounds of subsoil in the bog on the NHA.

The Rnagers said in sworn statements to the court that some of the piles contained gardening waste containing 'cherry laurel' which is an highly invasive species, scrap metal, and several large unsealed heavy duty plastic oil tanks.

Mr Coyne did not have permission from the Minister to put this material on the the site, the rangers said.

This activity had damaged the NHA as it reduced the foraging habitat for protected birds and pollinators that nest in the area.

When questioned by the rangers at his business premises Mr Coyne had denied dumping the material on the site.

The rangers also stated in their affidavits that they were concerned turf would be extracted from the NHA, as they had seen turf cutting equipment stored close to the where the material had been dumped.

While Mr Coyne said he was not using the equipment, the rangers said that in 2019 he had engaged a contractor to cut turf on the NHA, and expressed their beleive that he would do so again in 2020. 

Peat extraction from the bog has been prohibited since 2017, it is claimed.

The matter returned before Mr Justice Michael Twomey on Friday, who was informed that that the service is concerns the orders granted last month against Mr Coyne are not being complied with and that turf cutting on the NHA may be imminent.

The service claimed that a gate was erected on the Minister's lands by Mr Coyne, hindering the service's access to the site, and had removed signs put on the land by the service.

Following an application by the Minister's lawyers the judge agreed to make orders including one requiring Mr Coyne to remove the gate.

The judge also granted the Minister permission to bring a motion for Mr Coyne's attachment and committal to prison in the event that court orders were not complied with.

Mr Coyne was not present in court nor represented in court for the application.

The matter will return before the court later this month.

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