Taoiseach: No legislation on smoky fuel planned for this Dáil session

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that “nothing will be forced on people immediately” and that “there is no legislation for this session” on smoky fuel.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, independent TD Michael Healy-Rae asked the Taoiseach: “What legislation, if any, does the government intend to bring before the Dáil in order to ban the sale of coal, peat briquettes, turf and wet wood?”

“In terms of the overall context, it had been both the general and majority view of this House, as articulated at various Oireachtas committees and of the government, that we need to address the issue of climate change and that we also have to have clean air for the health of the people of the country,” Martin said.

“I ask the deputy to confirm that this is also his view.

“The introduction of the smoky coal ban in 1990 by the then minister, Mary Harney, was a radical move that dramatically improved the health of the citizens of Dublin and other cities.

It is an issue that we need to engage with in this House because there are some towns around the country where reports from experts on respiratory health are categoric about the damage being done to people’s health because of smoky coal.

“I do not think that we should give any succour to the smoky coal sector any more in any shape or form. The fact that we are now in 2021 and that ban has not been completed is an indictment of society. That is my view.”

He added that “nothing will be forced on people immediately. There is no legislation for this session”.

‘Basic requirements of any human’

Deputy Healy-Rae said:

“Water, heat and light are basic requirements of any human being trying to live in this country. The government proposing to take away that source of heat by banning the sale of the fuels to which I refer would be outrageous, unfair and wrong.

“By closing down the peat industry, the government is affecting the horticultural industry. There are many small garden centres, large-scale operators and medium businesses that all provide valuable employment.

“The latter need peat for their activities and they are asking what exactly is going to happen to them in the future.

I did not want to talk about Mary Harney and the smoky coal ban. That was a thing for cities where thousands of people are concentrated.

“I am talking about people who predominantly live in the country and the only source of heat in their homes is timber, turf and perhaps peat briquettes.

“The Taoiseach cannot compare people living in the countryside with something that happened in Dublin 20 or 25 years ago.”

Martin added: “There will be opportunities for public consultation and for the deputy and others to make submissions.

“However, I do have concerns that the deputy is not embracing the principle of clean air. I hope I am wrong in that regard and I take it that the deputy is.”

Bord na Móna permanently ends peat harvesting

Today (Friday, January 15) Bord na Móna announced that it has permanently ended peat harvesting.

In an update to staff last night, it said that the decision “illustrates the steep fall in the company’s use and dependence on peat during the past two years”.

However, Bord na Móna confirmed to AgriLand this morning that it still has reserves for briquettes up to 2024 and horticultural peat customers will have supply up until the summer at least.