RELATIONS BETWEEN Government parties are disintegrating over a proposed ban on the sale of turf.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan (GP) has been warned by coalition colleagues that the plan to ban the sale of turf could bring down the Government. Minister Ryan came under pressure in a series of meetings on Tuesday whereby he was shouted down and heckled by some Fine Gael TDs.
At an hour-long meeting, Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) confronted Minister Ryan and asked whether he had ever “saved” turf – the practice of turning turf to dry it – to which Mr Ryan said he had not. It was among a number of sharp exchanges at the engagement between the Green Party leader and Fine Gael backbenchers. Minister Ryan insisted he had brought money and jobs to rural Ireland and said the Government’s plans to restrict turf sales was a matter of public health.
Speaking subsequently, Deputy Carey felt the meeting was “unsatisfactory” in that it was “very short”. The Clarecaste native admitted he hasn’t seen the details on the regulations and didn’t accept the figures of 1300 deaths per annum and associated illnesses from air pollution. “We’re just not happy with what’s being proposed and how it’s been done. We need to reach an agreement on it and there isn’t agreement on it. We had a robust exchange of views and we explained to him that we don’t support his initiative and we wanted it changed,” Carey stated.
Carey added, “There’s very strong feelings on this, it is coming at the worst possible time, we have soaring energy costs, that situation may well get even worse this winter with the lack of availability of oil and gas, the prices associated with those”.
During his meeting with Fianna Fáil representatives, Minister Ryan was told by Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) that he could not vote for the current draft proposals which he labelled as “poorly timed, mean-spirited and anti-rural”. Deputy Crowe insisted the turf ban was not included in the Programme for Government, a view which has been disputed by opposition TDs and members of the Green Party. He said the counter motion tabled by the Government to respond to a Sinn Féin motion on turf recognised the status quo and he would support it.
Over the course of the private meetings, Minister Ryan outlined the importance of introducing the regulations on smoky fuels such as coal, turf and wet wood in order to help reduce the 1,300 deaths and associated illnesses caused every year by air pollution. He also outlined how the draft regulations are being prepared on foot of a public consultation, an ongoing process that has taken place over the last year and a quarter.
Tension also reached its way to Cabinet with Minister for Education, Norma Foley (FF) criticising Government communications on the issue.
Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) issued a statement on the matter to The Clare Echo flagging that traditional turf use across the county would not be affected and rather large scale sale of smoky fuels. The Inagh woman later withdrew her statement on account of “ongoing talks within Government”.