*Senator Roisin Garvey. Photograph: Natasha Barton

A CLARE SENATOR was embroiled in ‘a turf war’ while appearing on one of the country’s most listened to radio shows.

New solid fuel regulations due to come into effect from September will ban the sale and distribution of turf as proposed by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan (GP). The cutting of turf by those with turbary rights for use in their own home will be allowed to continue.

Tensions reached boiling point between Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) and Roscommon TD, Michael Fitzmaurice (IND) on Today FM’s The Last Word presented by Matt Cooper. The exchange which debated the proposed ban on the sale of turf from September 1st was also the inspiration for a sketch on Gift Grub, the satirical comedy segment from The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show.

“We’re not banning people giving people bags of turf, that is completely untrue, we just have to stop the massive industry of selling turf, if we bring this in we can ban smoky coal and they are the two huge causes of massive health issues, we’re seeing 1300 premature deaths a year from pollution in Ireland,” Senator Garvey detailed. “I can’t see the police calling out to any old persons door arresting them, we’ve to use a common sense approach here and I think it is ridiculous let’s talk about the big guys”.

She added, “We’re not saying you can’t give turf to your neighbour, the sale of turf has to stop, you can still cut your own turf, lease a bank and cut turf which is what my family have done for forty years, we have to stop the big guys who are selling the turf for very large multi-million euro illegal contractor sector, they are the ones we are targeting here, we won’t be knocking on granny’s door arresting her for burning turf”.

“Huge issues” of air pollution are prevalent in Ennis, the Inagh native flagged which she claimed is leaving some people “afraid” to walk outside at night.

Her comment that private contractors are exporting “ten times the amount of peat that we’ve imported” was “bullshit” according to Deputy Fitzmaurice. “It is not bullshit Michael Fitzmaurice and I don’t appreciate you using that word when I’m speaking facts. You make stuff up that is nice and populist, I base on facts, I always research my facts,” she responded.

A war of words then ensued with Senator Garvey adding, “If you could listen more and talk less with the stuff you’re making up to sound populist as if you’re defending rural Ireland, I speak for rural Ireland”. Deputy Fitzmaurice told the Green spokesperson on Rural Development, “you speak for nobody”. She replied, “Things have to change, I’m facing up to the reality we live in, you’re pretending we’re in some romantic Ireland, yourself and the Healy-Raes are a disgrace to rural Ireland, you’re letting us all down, you do not represent people properly, you’re a populist”.

Fitzmaurice bit back, “I’ll tell you what Roisin I was able to get 13,000 votes, what did you get”. He continued, “I got 13,000 votes from the people willing to give me a vote, what did you get, tell the people what you got”. She responded, “Popular rhetoric works obviously, fair play to you, I don’t work that way, I base myself on trying to do what is best and what needs to be done”. Deputy Fitzmaurice concluded, “You base yourself on fantasy not reality” before an entertained Cooper blew out the flame on the discussion.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (GP) insisted its primary introduction was as a public health measure and disputed claims from Senator Regina Doherty (FG) that the regulations was “virtue signalling at its best”.

Minister O’Gorman stated, “Every year 1300 people die because of air pollution related diseases, that’s a lot of people. If we think of how many die in road accidents or the like and the focus we put on that. When major cities introduced a ban on smoky fuel 20 to 25 years ago, it had a very significant impact on the number of people dying from respiratory ailments, this is a public health measure”.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) labelled the decision to ban the sale of turf as a step too far and said Minister Ryan did not consult his parties in Government. “We are now in the middle of April and temperatures have yet to pick up and many homes are still lighting fires at night to keep warm but the real worries for families lie in the autumn and winter months ahead when many will struggle to purchase fuels to heat their homes. I’m of the firm belief that 2022 is not the time to start a further scaling back of turf cutting and I’m resolute in this opinion”.

According to Michael McNamara TD (IND), it was “another case of putting the cart before the horse”. He commented, “We need to focus on heating people’s homes through sustainable means instead of leaving people with no alternative sitting in the cold which is the effect the proposed ban on the sale of turf will have for some”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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