Images of the West of Ireland remain symbolically potent in Irish culture and are central to the public mediation of the West as a tourism and cultural destination. Rural landscapes are in transition from sites for food production to culture and leisure sites. Within rural development policy, access to nature via the rural landscape is increasingly seen as necessary to the health and wellbeing of urban populations as well as providing economic revenue for unproductive landscapes.
This film is intended as both a reflection upon and a reminder of, the social, cultural and emotional attachments that underlie present day conflicts around land and the regulation of the landscape, specifically the conflict around turf cutting. The Irish State has a long history of top down decision-making when it comes to the implimention of EU directives and legislation. Nature is no longer a local affair, what happens in internationally significant landscapes like the raised peatlands and bogs of Ireland is open to scrutiny on a global stage, particularly when the care of the local environment is linked to EU fines and penalties.
The T.U.R.F. film is made from interviews with Colm and John Harrigan, who cut turf by hand on their one-acre bog which is now designated a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC, and Tom Ward who has his turf cut by a contractor and who wanted to be publicly documented breaking the law by cutting turf on his raised bog, also an SAC, this summer. Tom is now facing charges not for actually cutting the turf, but for a breach of the peace at a protest this summer. He argues that this is because the state is reluctant to prosecute individual turf cutters because of the public sympathy this will engender.