Fresh criticism of turf sale ban

The Environment Minister has been accused of being ‘out of touch’ with rural Ireland by banning the sale of turf.

Councillors hit out at Minister Eamon Ryan during their May monthly meeting, with wide ranging and some inaccurate claims.

During the discussion, Independent Councillor Brendan Fay claimed chimneys have been banned on new build homes and hit out at climate action measures.

“Electricity has gone through the roof, oil has gone through the roof. This time last year it was €430 for 1,000 litres, now it’s €1,400. Electricity was 19c to 21c, now it’s 43c to 50c a unit. ‘Let’s stop cutting turf so we can rape everyone’. Wrong word but just go after everybody in the country.”

A motion brought by Cllr Peter McVitty (FG) called on councillors to “oppose the ban on turf cutting and sale of turf”. However, while turf cutting is banned in some special areas of conservation and other parts of the country, a nationwide ban on cutting is not proposed.

Moving the motion, he was strong in his condemnation of the minister and his plans.

“It’s something I feel very strongly about given I was practically born and raised in the bog. I think Minister Ryan, in all fairness to the man, he’s very removed from rural Ireland. With all the increases in the fuel and heating, he just dropped it in at the wrong time.

“For someone like him, he’s living up in Dublin. I don’t think the man understands what it is to live in rural Ireland.”

Cllr Shane P O’Reilly (Ind) seconded the motion, hitting out at the reasons given for the proposed banning of the sale of turf.

“I wouldn’t think the man ever lifted a sod of turf in his life. I know what I’d do with one of them if I was beside him.

“What the man is doing is he’s using this issue regarding air quality and that it leads to a certain amount of deaths per year. I found it very strange that the figure that was quoted was 1,380 deaths are attributed to smoke from the burning of wet timber and turf… The situation is 960 people die in this country from falling down the stairs. So I wonder if the next thing we’re going to ban is stairs? He has totally and utterly lost the run of himself.”

No source for Cllr O’Reilly’s figure was given at the meeting.

Sinn Féin Cllr Paddy McDonald said he would also support the motion but criticised other parties for not backing moves by his party to delay carbon tax rises.

“I’m disappointed that when Sinn Féin put a motion to the floor of the Dáil two weeks ago, the Government deemed fit to support the ban and they also supported the carbon tax rise. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as Government parties have a big part to play in this.”

Cllr Philip Brady (FF) described Minister Ryan as “a bit like Shane Ross where he comes up with headlines to keep in the papers”, while his party colleague Seán Smith said fewer people are cutting turf and this trend will continue anyway.

Fine Gael’s Winston Bennett said many people who would not have cut turf in recent years did this year to “give the two fingers” to the minister, with Cllr TP O’Reilly (FG) describing the plan as “pure nonsense”.

Aontú Cllr Sarah O’Reilly hit out at her fellow councillors, claiming they’re “not in touch with their TDs”.

“I laughed at Cllr Brady there. He actually put his finger on it. The councillors in this chamber are not in touch with their local TDs it seems to me. They don’t seem to be communicating in any way at all.

“The difference between what I hear here and their respective partners in Government are doing is totally different. The Climate Action Bill was the start of all of this and I’d just like to remind Cllr McDonald that Sinn Féin voted for that bill.”

The comments drew the ire of Cathaoirleach Clifford Kelly who rebuffed the claims.

“We have been in touch with our TDs and senators and made our feelings known. I couldn’t let that away without replying to it.”

Closing the discussion, Cllr McVitty said he was “disappointed it’s been made a political football.

“A few people burning turf or timber doesn’t matter to the climate,” he said.