The trials of four men charged in connection with the cutting of turf on a Special Area of Conservation will begin in December.

They have been charged in relation to three separate incidents at Clonmoylan Bog in south Co Galway last year.

The offences are alleged to have taken place in May and August 2012.

Michael D'Arcy from Ballycahill, Killimor; Pat McDonagh from Portumna; Tony Porter from Woodford; and 57-year-old Padraic Byrne from Main Street, Killimor; were all before Galway Circuit Court.

Judge Raymond Groarke was told that each case was expected to take two days.

He fixed a date of 17 December for the start of the trials.

Around 150 people gathered outside the courthouse during today's proceedings in a show of solidarity with the accused men.

They held a silent protest and marched to Eyre Square in the city before re-assembling at the courthouse.