Local Fine Gael Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, has confirmed that the gifting or sale of turf will continue to happen legally, and there will be no areas where turf burning is banned, in a reversal of the earlier policy tabled by the Green Party.
“We had a heated Dáil debate earlier in the year regarding regulations which proposed to ban the sale or gifting of turf, which to me was an unexpected and very unwelcome development. Fine Gael called in Minister Eamon Ryan to our parliamentary party meeting on the issue and highlighted our very real concerns. While we continue to take action to tackle the climate crisis, where there are no viable alternatives, those in Westmeath and other midland counties cannot be left without access to fuel. Retrofitting is taking place but for the present moment, it is out of the question that the burning of turf would be in any ways limited.
“I led a group in Fine Gael who worked on and proposed revised regulations and I am glad these have now been agreed by all three parties in Government. These revised regulations will protect traditional turf cutting practices and allow those who have traditionally cut, shared and sold turf to continue to do so. They allow those with turbary rights & all ‘customary rights’ cut, burn, share and sell turf. Customary rights include those with Q3 agreements, fee simple rights, acquired rights, commonage rights, licensed rights, leased rights, inherited rights, familial rights and any other recognised ownership rights.
“The sale of turf is permitted in person but will be limited online and via stores. Turf is generally done on a word-of-mouth basis as we all know, and contractors supply the same families every year
“We’re confident this solution will protect and extend the current smoky coal ban, while allowing for traditional practices to continue. The scale of turf burning in Ireland is extremely low, with five percent reliant on it for heating. As the years pass and new homes are built, we will see this percentage dip even lower, so to make a scapegoat of a practice which is diminishing every year makes no sense. While there are emissions from all fossil fuels, the numbers of families who burn turf is dwarfed by those who use oil or gas. The overall contribution to climate change to is very modest, in particular when you compare it to practices such as air travel which is not restricted in the slightest.
“We have also seen the removal of the reference to towns smaller than 500 persons in these revised regulations.
“We now have to return to the European Commission with these regulations due to the significant change in the content, and it is expected once cleared by the Commission, the regulations will come into place in October.
“I am glad that a solution has been reached. I continue to highlight at Government level that while we in the midlands are happy to play our part in tackling climate change, we cannot do this until viable, cost efficient alternatives are made available to all citizens, regardless of whether they are based in a city or a rural location. The Tánaiste and all Fine Gael ministers are in agreement on this,” Deputy Burke asserted.