By Cate McCurry, PA
The Taoiseach said there are no plans to ban turf sales for the rest of the year.
Micheal Martin rejected claims by Sinn Fein that the Government has plans to curtail the commercial sale of turf.
“There is no ban on the use of turf in rural Ireland and there will be no ban for the remainder of the year,” he told the Dáil.
The Government has faced accusations of sending out mixed messages over the issue, after Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said a restriction on turf sales would come into place by September.
The Government’s plan punishes communities who rely on turf, instead of introducing measures to support communities in transitioning away from this form of heating in a way that is fair and sustainable – @ClaireKerrane @Martin_Kenny @conwaywalsh @mattcarthy pic.twitter.com/LbfTBNZYV8
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) April 27, 2022
On Wednesday night, the Dail will vote on a Sinn Fein motion seeking to cancel the carbon tax increase and scrap Government plans to restrict the sale of turf later this year.
“You have indicated, Taoiseach, that it is your intention to vote against this motion and you will do this despite the frustration felt right across rural communities,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil.
“You will do it also despite the fact that you couldn’t even convince your own backbenchers of the merits of this plan.
“You will do it despite the fact that people in rural Ireland, particularly older people, people on lower incomes with no alternative will struggle and struggle badly.
“This is the wrong move at the wrong time, it is unfair, it alienates communities and would be unworkable.”
Mr Martin said: “Your motion tonight is to get rid of the carbon tax.
“Because the only way we could implement your motion this evening is to get rid of the legislation that underpins the carbon tax: which provides the funding to deal with fuel poverty; which deals away with retrofitting funds to enable people on low incomes to retrofit their homes.
“It does away with friendly farming towards the environment and it does away with Just Transition.
“It’s carbon tax but you are trying to hide that fact by using the term excise, which is actually a carbon tax. Your motion is full of duplicity.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys rejected suggestions that the Government is at war after the Green Party leader met with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail TDs to allay their concerns.
“I understand how emotive this issue is and the right to cut turf in your own bog is a long-held Irish tradition,” Ms Humphreys said on Wednesday.
“I was down in Offaly only last Friday, and I was speaking to some people there and in the distance they were cutting turf.
“The lads there said to me, it’s a dying trade because fewer and fewer people every year are going to cut turf. I can fully understand as young people have busy lives and the last thing they want to do is to be in a bog, cutting turf with blisters on their hands.
“This will die out in time, I have no doubt about that. The Taoiseach is very clear those people who are cutting turf for their own domestic use will continue to do so and the tradition of selling turf to your neighbour will continue.
“There are issues around the big contractors and that will be dealt with.
“People who are moving into new houses, we have new ways of heating the homes, whether it is the heat air pumps.
“When most people go home in the evening they want to be able to switch, they have an app on their phone and have a nice warm and comfortable home and that’s the way forward.
“I think our focus needs to be on retrofit, that’s where the focus needs to be. Where we can have more sustainable methods of heating our homes.
“We face a lot of challenges in Government and this issue will be dealt with and we will find a solution.”