Fitzmaurice expects 'huge backlash' if Government tries to ban turf burning
Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice said he expects an "enormous backlash" if the Government tries to introduce a ban on the cutting and burning of turf.
A report in the Sunday Business Post last month stated that the coalition was considering introducing a ban on the sale of all smoky fuels, including coal, peat briquettes, and sod turf.
Following on from such reports, Deputy Fitzmaurice last week met with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, and some of his senior officials, to discuss his concerns around domestic turf cutting.
The Roscommon-Galway TD said the Minister and his officials confirmed to him that people who cut turf for their own fire in their own home have no need to fear an upcoming public consultation on this issue.
"After seeing some of these reports in the media and receiving many calls from concerned constituents on the matter, I requested a meeting with Minister Eamon Ryan," said Deputy Fitzmaurice.
"I sought the meeting to clarify the situation and the Minister, along with his officials, confirmed that domestic turf cutters who cut turf to burn in their own fires in their own homes have no need to be concerned.
"They highlighted that the primary concern is around air quality levels and that the public consultation is just a step towards addressing the matter.
"As part of the consultation, there is a proposal to regulate the sale of fuels – such as briquettes, coal and timber – when it comes to their moisture levels or smoke content levels.
"As was confirmed (last Friday) by Bord na Móna, it was noted during the meeting that the sale of briquettes would be phased out eventually.
"The timeline for ceasing production has been confirmed by Bord na Móna as 2024, with a potential for sales to stretch into 2025.
"Issues around the sale of wet timber were also addressed at the meeting with the Minister and his officials and advisers. It was noted during the meeting that there is a hope to regulate the moisture content levels of timber, before it is sold, to 20%, in line with levels in the UK."
Deputy Fitzmaurice added: "During the meeting, I explained to the minister and his officials that if efforts were made to ban the cutting and burning of turf domestically then they would face an enormous backlash.
"We all remember the battle that ensued when efforts were made to ban turf cutting on 53 raised bogs back in 2011 and 2012. One can only imagine the protests that would occur if the Government tried to enforce a nationwide ban.
"I informed the Minister of my belief that the number of households cutting and burning turf domestically would decrease of its own accord in the next decade or so, as people – particularly the next generation – move towards alternative technologies such as air-to-water to heat their homes."
The Independent TD for the Roscommon-Galway constituency thanked Minister Ryan and his officials for facilitating the meeting.
"I will continue to monitor each step the department makes as part of this upcoming consultation, but I will not rush into making statements until clarity is received on a particular point.
"Having liaised with members of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, they are satisfied with the clarification and agreed to closely monitor developments with the consultation.
"As has always been their view, people who cut turf to burn in their own fire in their own home do not represent a major threat to the environment – and people throughout the country will continue to defend their right to this tradition.
"And it would be unwise of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael to row in behind any agenda that threatens that right," he concluded.