The Environment minister has said that a ban on the commercial sale of smoky coal and turf approved by Cabinet on Thursday “will save lives”, and that the Attorney General was “useful” in providing clarity to parliamentarians’ concerns.
Earlier this year, several Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs raised concerns about a move to clamp down on turf burning this autumn at a time when fuel bills are rising sharply.
In particular, concerns were raised about how the regulations would affect small-scale turf cutters who sell peat to friends and neighbours.
“What this is about is regulation at the retail end – stopping the mass distribution of smoky coal, wet woods, turf through retail premises,” Environment Minister Eamon Ryan told reporters in Dublin on Thursday.
“It won’t be regulating in the home or policing that way.”
Mr Ryan added that the plans approved by Government had not changed from the original draft plans, but the wording may have been clarified.
“I think it was a question of hearing (everyone) out and providing real clarity and getting the wording on that,” Mr Ryan said.
“I think the Attorney General provided a very useful role because the final wording, as I said, you draft several times. So yes, we did listen.
“But a year ago, six months ago, three months ago, I was outlining these regulations in the way that they’ve now been delivered. And I’m glad that that has the support of other parties, mostly independents I’ve talked to, so I think we can introduce them now and see the benefit.”
Mr Ryan added: “We did look at variations – that idea of villages of 500 people or more having different rules.”
The approval comes after Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar discussed the turf ban at their respective parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday night.
“We listened to our colleagues and government,” Mr Ryan said. “I think we’ve ended up with a solution that, from my talking to colleagues and other parties, they think is the right balance, and I do too.”
“I think it’s a really significant day for looking after our environment, improving public health. Having cleaner air right across our country is fundamental to good health and local environment.”
The regulations will come into effect from October 31, the minister said.