No proposal to pause turf ban has come to Government, says Donohoe

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that no proposal had yet come forward to Government to pause the ban, he understood that would come after Easter and then the Government would decide.
No proposal to pause turf ban has come to Government, says Donohoe

Vivienne Clarke

Updated at 9.45am

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said that the Government will consider a detailed report about turf burning after Easter at which time a decision will be made about the proposed ban on the sale of turf.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donohoe said that no proposal in relation to a pause on the ban, as reportedly advocated by the Tánaiste, had come to Government.

However, on Newstalk Breakfast Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said there would be no pause in plans to ban the sale of turf. The comment by Mr Varadkar had been made at a Fine Gael meeting, not at a public meeting, he added.

Mr Ryan said that the concerns that people would be criminalised needed to be addressed and the details of the regulations better communicated.

The ban on the sale of turf had been talked about for years, plans had been paused before, if such plans were paused now “we will have a big problem.”

Mr Donohoe said that no proposal had yet come forward to Government to pause the ban, he understood that would come after Easter and then the Government would decide.

“This is a matter for concern. This is a matter the Government will decide when we have detailed proposals. It’s very early to prejudge.”

Even with differing views among the three parties, the Government had a proven ability to come together to make decisions, he said.

'Semantics'

Despite reports that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told his party colleagues that the controversial ban on turf had been paused, Mr Varadkar confirmed on Thursday morning that a proposed pause had not yet come to Government.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Mr Varadkar said that a blanket ban on the sale of turf was going too far and that it should not be illegal for neighbours to sell turf to those who use it as fuel.

Mr Varadkar described the reports about his comments as “semantics”.

“If we can agree it will go ahead in September.”

The coalition operates on good faith, he said. “This is an important issue, it hasn’t been agreed yet.”

There was a need to take more action on air quality, he said, but there was also a need to protect traditional practices. A ban on neighbours selling turf was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

A blanket ban was going too far. He agreed that turf should not be sold at petrol stations. Mr Varadkar added that he was happy to engage in a discussion on the issue when he saw the details.

'Cut adrift'

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Barry Cowen has said that the proposed ban on the sale of turf cannot go ahead in its current form.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Cowen added that the practice of turf cutting and burning it for fuel was diminishing and would “work its way out over the coming years”.

There was a cohort of people, many of them old and vulnerable, for whom buying turf from a neighbour or commercial cutter was their only source of fuel, he said.

Mr Cowen said he had no problem with doing away with the practice of selling turf at petrol stations or at the side of the road, but he felt that those who traditionally bought locally should be included with those who would be allowed to continue to cut their own turf under the proposed ban.

Eamon Ryan’s proposal did not make allowances for them, he said.

I don’t want those people cut adrift.

Mr Cowen said he hoped he could “press upon” Mr Ryan to allow those people to continue to do as they had done in the past.

Mr Cowen said he could not and would not stand for the proposal as it was at present.

“We need to bring people along on the journey.”

The proposals undermined the work that had been done throughout the midlands to date to make the transition from turf to alternative forms of energy.

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