‘Your granny won’t go to prison for burning turf’, says Eamon Ryan as he denies ban has been ‘paused’
April 14 2022 12:05 PM
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said that the Government will not put anyone’s “granny in prison for burning turf” after a row has emerged in the Coalition over the ban of the sale of turf.
Minister Ryan insisted this morning that the ban has not been paused despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar telling his parliamentary party last night that it was being put on hold.
Mr Varadkar told Newstalk radio that it was “semantics” and that the ban cannot be paused as it has not even been agreed yet.
Mr Ryan said this morning that the ban, which was set to come into place in September, is still going ahead, however, the details of the regulations are yet to be worked out.*
He said that the three party leaders discussed the issue at their weekly meeting on Monday.
“We agreed to come back and get the details right and how we regulate this,” he said.
“It’s not, ‘We’re gonna put your granny in prison for burning turf down the road’, but it is getting right where we get air quality improved.”
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He said that he spoke to Mr Varadkar last night and that the Green Party leader is confident that Fine Gael and the Greens will “work collectively”.
“Our teams work well together so I’m absolutely happy that we can overcome our differences,” he said.
“There’s broad agreement here that we will introduce the smoky coal ban, that legally that means you also have to then regulate the quality of wood and other solid fuels, everyone agrees with that.
“[the idea of] ‘Oh, this is the Greens are telling the people of rural Ireland what to do’. That’s not true.”
Minister Ryan said that “of course” people will still be able to burn their own turf and he said that this was made “unclear” in the past week in an attempt to “scare people”.
“We’re not going to regulate down to someone in their own bog, and we’ve made that clear from the start,” he said.
He said that the ban is designed to target “the big distruction systems, the quality of wood, the quality of coal”.
Despite Mr Ryan insisting that the ban is still going ahead, Fianna Fáil Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne was unable to confirm whether it was or not when he was speaking to reporters at the Global Ireland Summit in Dublin Castle.
“Minister Eamon Ryan is the person to ask that question,” he said when asked if the ban was still going ahead.
The Meath East TD said that there is “no doubt” that there needs to be a transition to a carbon neutral economy and that he will be visiting his own wife’s home county later own today, which is “in the middle of turf country”.
Fine Gael MEP and EU Commissioner for Financial Stability Mairead McGuinness said that there is a need to “listen very carefully” to how the public feels about a possible ban.
“The Government is working to resolve these things by listening to genuine concerns and addressing them,” she said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there were different perspectives within the Government on the issue but that they would aim to resolve it in a “practical and common-sense way”.
“It is not intended, nor has it been intended, to prevent people with their own bogs or people who share turf, look after neighbours and so on like that, historic rights like that, that they would be in anyway affected by this but there will be further discussions between the three parties and the government to resolve this issue,” Mr Martin told Galway Bay FM on Thursday.
Speaking to Newstalk, Mr Varadkar had it clear that he would not be in favour of banning people selling a couple of bags of turf to their neighbours. “I don’t think we should make that illegal,” he said.
“I think that would be going too far, I think it would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut and you know we need to sit down and work out something that’s practical.”
Also today, the Minister for Finance defended the decision not to reduce VAT on home heating oil as part of the Government’s package of measures to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
Paschal Donohoe said while the Government can help offset rising costs, he cannot bring in every measure demanded of him.
The Government on Wednesday unveiled its latest package of measures in a bid to ease the financial pressures on families and households.
The VAT rate for gas and electric will drop to 9pc from May 1 until the end of October, at an estimated cost of €46 million.
The Government said the latest steps will offset the increase in carbon taxes, set to take place at the beginning of next month.
Ministers also agreed to reduce the excise tax on marked gas oil by 2.7pc from May 1.
Mr Donohoe claimed the Government cannot cut VAT on home heating oil because of EU laws.
“While I accept this feels a little bit removed from challenges in relation to cost of living, overall really in the interests of the small exporting country like Ireland, within the European Union, that we have clear laws in relation to VAT because in turn it helps us sell our goods and services in other countries,” he told RTÉ.
Ireland is already shutting down industrial production of peat for fertiliser and briquettes for home heating in order to meet climate change targets, as peat and turf are among the worst polluting fuels for both carbon emissions and particulate matter in the air.
Bord na Mona facilities in the midlands have already been shut down, with the Government providing ‘Just Transition’ funding to retrain local workers.
However, the current spiralling fuel prices have led to calls from for the industry to be reopened and for the ban on remaining turf cutting to be postponed.