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Greens accuse Fine Gael of trying to ‘outdo the Healy-Raes’ as turf war escalates

Leo Varadkar’s party ‘trying to out-Healy-Rae the Healy-Raes’ say Greens 

Stacking turf. Picture by Getty

Stacking turf. Picture by Getty

May 01 2022 02:30 AM


The Coalition ‘turf war’ has escalated this weekend after the Green Party privately accused Fine Gael of trying to “outdo the Healy-Raes” with its opposition to Eamon Ryan’s solid fuel regulations.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that Mr Ryan, the Environment Minister, intends to push ahead with plans to ban the sale of commercial smoky fuels — including smoky coal, turf and wet wood — contrary to claims last week that the minister was mulling concessions.

While his officials are still working on the regulations, the plan remains that small rural communities of under 500 people will be exempt from any ban on selling and gifting of turf to neighbours and friends under measures due to come into effect on September 1.

This comes despite Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week telling the Dáil there would be “no ban on the use of turf in rural Ireland and there will be no ban for the remainder of the year”.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs are warning they cannot accept the population limit — but after Mr Ryan came under sharp attack from Fine Gael backbenchers in particular at a stormy meeting last Tuesday, his allies this weekend hit back.

“It was a bit of a shock to see the party of Garret FitzGerald take such a populist line, where they seemed to be trying to outdo Mattie McGrath and the Healy-Raes,” a Green Party source said of Fine Gael.

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“The party talks a great talk when it comes to the environment, but it was a bit of an eye-opener to see their response when it came to tackling air pollution.”

Another Green Party source within government said: “There is a rump of four to five in Fine Gael and three or four in Fianna Fáíl who are determined to ‘out-Healy-Rae’ the Healy-Raes — and if they are let away with it consistently, especially on climate stuff and public transport and all that, then you’re going to have problems.”

Former rural affairs minister Michael Ring last Tuesday mounted an extraordinary attack on Mr Ryan, accusing him of being “great for bluff” and describing the population limit as a “daft idea”. 

The Mayo TD asked Mr Ryan why he had a right to take away the livelihoods of people who cut turf and then loudly interrupted Mr Ryan as he responded. Clare TD Joe Carey also heckled, asking Ryan if he’d ever “saved” turf.

Deputy government whip Brendan Griffin, a Fine Gael TD, said last night: “I won’t be happy until we see the final proposals being enough to allay concerns of people in rural Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen insisted the population limit would have to be dropped.

“Eamon Ryan knows the depth of feeling and concern, and the depth of disagreement and rejection that there was for his proposals — and he knows that he can’t bring it into the Dáil without having squared away the two parties,” the Laois-Offaly deputy said.

But Green Party TD Brian Leddin of Limerick, who chairs the Oireachtas Climate Committee, defended Mr Ryan’s plans, insisting: “It’s something we’ll look back on in time as being the right decision.”

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