Politics

Minister’s proposals on turf sale ban exemption in some rural areas ‘won’t wash’


A proposal to exempt small rural communities from a ban on selling turf “won’t wash” and questions have been raised as to whether it is a legally enforceable solution.

Minster for the Environment Eamon Ryan’s plans to ban the sale of turf from September has prompted a backlash among rural TDs in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

A Sinn Féin motion seeking to scrap the ban is to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday evening.

Mr Ryan will meet Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs ahead of that debate as he seeks to allay their concerns at his plans which are part of efforts to crack down on the use of smoky fuels. The Green Party leader has raised the prospect of an exemption from the ban on turf sales for communities of less than 500 people.

However, two senior Government backbenchers from the midlands – Laois-Offaly TDs Barry Cowen and Charlie Flanagan – have cast doubt on the proposal being accepted.

Fianna Fáil TD Mr Cowen said it “won’t wash” and is “not the solution”. He said towns such as Tullamore, Birr and other places with populations of more than 500 people are home to vulnerable households that have not made the switch from solid fuels for their heating needs. He said their needs must be respected and that Mr Ryan’s proposal does “little to assure” such households.

Fine Gael TD Mr Flanagan said of the proposed exemption: “It doesn’t appear to me to be a legally enforceable or practical solution.”

He welcomed Mr Ryan’s plan to meet Fine Gael politicians saying, “I trust that he will clarify matters because he appears to be making it up as he goes along”.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said the Solid Fuels Regulations are still in draft form, they have not been approved and they will be amended. She said the proposed exemption would be for less dense areas because burning turf there “would be less likely to contravene air quality standards that would have a detrimental effect on others”.

Under the draft regulations, households in small villages or people living in rural one-off homes would still be allowed to burn turf or sell small amounts to family and neighbours without being penalised.

The spokeswoman also said Mr Ryan has met Irish Rural Link, a network of organisations campaigning for sustainable rural development, and “discussed the need to support people most affected by the regulations and at risk of fuel poverty, to help them switch fuels and get support to retrofit their homes and upgrade their heating systems”.



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