By Cate McCurry and Dominic McGrath, PA
Questions over Government policy on turf cutting continued on Thursday, as coalition leaders were quizzed on claims that a ban on the sale of turf has been paused.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan had earlier rejected claims that a ban has been paused.
It came hours after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the ban has been put on hold because of rising energy prices.
The proposed ban on the commercial sale of turf is due to come into force in September, however question marks now hang over the timeline.
Speaking in Galway, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that a “resolution” could be found on the issue.
He also suggested that the Government did not intend to interfere with the right of people using turf from their own bog for domestic purposes.
He said: “There was an issue in terms of air quality in many towns across the country. In the early 90s, we brought in bans on smoky coals in the large cities, and it had a huge impact in terms of air quality and improving people’s health.
“Unfortunately, smoky coals continue to be used in many towns across the country. The problem is legally, you can’t ban smoky coals, the sale of it, without doing something in relation to other fuels.
“That said, it is not our intention in terms of the basic rights that families have and people who own their own bogs, in terms of utilising turf, or indeed timber, in their domestic fires. So I think we can find a resolution to this and there is plenty of time to do that.”
Mr Ryan had said that part of the Government’s climate plan is to tackle air quality issues.
He accused previous governments of “fudging” the issues.
“It’s hard and carries political risk, but air pollution leaves 1,300 people a year dying prematurely, and I think there is broad agreement we need to address that,” Mr Ryan added.
“I think there is agreement that there is legal certainty that we can only do that with the sort of mechanisms that we went to with public consultation.
“Myself and Taoiseach (Micheál Martin) and the Tánaiste were talking on Monday night about this, and we agreed to come back and get the details right on how we regulate (the turf ban).
“It’s not ‘we are not going to put your granny in prison for burning turf’, but it is getting it right and air quality improved, which is fundamental to our quality of life.
“I talked to the Tánaiste again last night, and we will work collectively. I am happy we can overcome that difference.
“We will introduce the regulations and get it right. September is the timeline and it makes sense. It is not paused.”
Mr Ryan said there will not be a blanket ban on the use of turf, but it is a measure targeting the point of sale.
The Green Party leader also said tackling climate change cannot be a party political issue.
“The climate issues belongs to every party and community,” he added.
“Secondly, we have learned that a narrative of ‘I am blaming you, you are the problem or what are you going to do about it’ and shaking your finger at someone, that doesn’t work, people freeze and rightly feel ‘who are you telling people what to do’.
“We have to create the better alternative option and this Government has the plans in place to do that.”