Tommy Sheehan, North Pole Fuel Merchants, Ballinagh Road, Cavan.

Fuel merchants business going up in smoke

Nationwide smoky coal ban within a year

The owner of a fuel merchants in Cavan Town has said the writing is on the wall for businesses like his once new laws, banning smoky coal, take effect in September 2022.

Tommy Sheehan of North Pole Fuels made the comments as it was revealed that the entire country would become a low-smoke zone in a year's time - outlawing the burning of smoky coal nationwide. But Mr Sheehan warns the ban won't work unless it's applied both sides of the Border and properly enforced.

Cavan Town is currently the only town in the county designated a low-smoke zone, the designation came in last year. But Mr Sheehan reveals that, while he is banned from selling smoky coal for use in Cavan Town, householders are bringing it in from the North where the same levels of carbon tax don't apply.

"I know for a fact that there are people here in the South, who order one or two tonnes of coal in the North and pay over the phone with their credit card. It is wrapped up in black polythene and then it is delivered to places like Tallaght in Dublin and it is dropped off neatly on a pallet," Mr Sheehan alleged.

He added that there is no carbon tax being paid on such deliveries of coal from the North.

€6 per page price difference

Smoky coal can be purchased in the North for just €11 per bag; whereas the cheapest comparable coal here costs €17.20 per bag. There is also a higher grade smoky coal from Columbia on the market in Ireland for €20.

North Pole Fuels can still sell smoky coal to customers outside of Cavan Town, "I deliver coal out to homes in rural areas of Cavan and to elderly people living in long lanes. They use the coal to keep the solid fuel cooker going and they keep the kettle on the boil the whole time," said Mr Sheehan.

The businessman feels that the provision financial support to help people who are at risk of fuel poverty, or incentives to make the transition to healthier forms of heating over time more attractive were not addressed in the Minister Ryan’s announcement last week.

Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, marked International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies (Tuesday, September 7) by announcing the new standards for all domestic solid fuels that will be introduced across the State within a year.

Poor air quality causes premature deaths and each year some 1,300 people die in Ireland due to air pollution from solid fuel burning. "This demonstrates the extent to which the choices we make when heating our homes can impact on our own health and the communities in which we live," said the minister.

Coal mines are being opened in the Newcastle region in England; while Poland is opening up more coal mines to fuel power stations.

Consequentially, Mr Sheehan says it is now almost impossible to get Polish coal.

"I will get rid of the smoky coal when the nationwide ban comes into effect in September next year," revealed Mr Sheehan, who fears for the future of his business if people opt to buy cheaper fuel north of the Border.