Turf ban not targeted at 'neighbours helping each other' - Troy

The proposed introduction of a ban on the sale of turf is not targeted at “historical arrangements where neighbours help each other out”, a local government minister has said.

The recent announcement by Minister of the Environment Eamon Ryan that the sale of turf would be banned this September has been criticised by communities across the midlands and the west of Ireland where people have depended on locally harvested turf to heat their homes for generations.

Minister of State Robert Troy says that he met with Minister Ryan days after the news about the ban broke and got a better understanding about his intentions.

“What's very, very clear is that he's not talking about regulating or banning historical arrangements where neighbours help each other out and things like that. What he's looking to target is the industrial harvesting of peat and it being sold wholesale in large towns.

"The reason for that is that in order to bring in the ban on smoky coal to improve air quality, he has to be consistent across all fossil fuels. I am working with community groups to ensure that there is a just transition over a number of years. I am working with a group in the north of the county to try and get a co-op established to enable them to cut and harvest turf for a number of years.”

While he said that people will have to wait and see what proposed regulations are brought forward by Minister Ryan in the coming weeks, Minister Troy said that from his perspective they have to be “proportionate, fair and balanced”.

"It has to take into account people who have long-standing practices, not just people who own their own turbary rights but there are others who may have use of turbary rights and have been harvesting turf for domestic use for decades. All of this has to be protected.

"The large scale industrial harvesting of peat to sell in urban areas, if Minister Ryan keeps it to that, that's a different story, but we have to protect people who have relied on peat for their own domestic use and for families helping out families, or for people who are harvesting on behalf of somebody, all of those practices have to be protected.

“We know that this is a practice that is being phased out and has to be phased out if we are to meet our targets on carbon emissions but it needs to be done in a phased, proportionate and balanced way.”

Minister Troy says that he has received no phone calls from constituents about the proposed ban.

“I think a far more pressing issue from the turf perspective in this region is the people up in Coolnagun, who surrendered their banks back in the 1990s to Bord na Móna to enable BNM to consolidate their holdings on the word of mouth that they would always have access to turf for their lifetimes.

“Now BNM is not allowing them to cut turf because of the fact of the High Court decision (which banned the harvesting of turf on plots larger than 30 hectares). I believe that's what needs to be addressed because if that is addressed those people wouldn't have to buy turf.”