New laws banning the sale of turf will not see people jailed for burning their own, a Government Minister of State has insisted.
Jack Chambers was speaking after the Irish Daily Mail reported that people who burn turf excessively could face up to two years in jail or a €13,000 fine.
The new regulations, which came into effect at midnight, ban the sale of turf, smoky coal, and wet wood in shops and online.
People with turbary (turf-cutting) rights will still be able to cut turf for their own use or to gift it to others. They can sell it provided they don’t do so in a shop or online.
The Daily Mail this morning reported the Department of Environment is warning people they can be prosecuted under the Air Pollution Act if they are found to be “creating a significant level of air pollution and causing a nuisance to your neighbours” by burning turf or any other substance.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Minister of State with Responsibility for Sport Jack Chambers said this has nothing to do with the new regulations.
He said the air Pollution Act has been in force since the late 1980s and is not affected by the new regulations.
“Turbary rights and all other customary practices in respect of turf are unaffected by these regulations,” he said.
“People can continue to cut turf for their own use. What is affected is the sale of turf, for example in retail premises.
“I know, in the inside of that article, the Air Pollution Act is referenced, but that goes back to the late 1980s for example, which has always been the case around the monitoring of air pollution in particular areas.
“But turbary rights are protected. It is important to give certainty to people. That was announced earlier on.”
The Environment Minister Eamon Ryan previously hit out at the “huge misinformation and disinformation” surrounding the legislation, telling Newstalk that nobody’s granny would be arrested for burning turf.
Minister Chambers said enforcement of the Air Pollution Act remains a matter for local authorities.
“Nothing has changed when it comes to turbary rights in the context of the regulations that were signed,” he said.
“The legislation that is referred to relates to the late 1980s, which gives local authorities the power to enforce or monitor and deal with complaints. Nothing has changed in relation to that.”
Despite his assurances, Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae told the show the new rules will have people fearing imprisonment.
“Under the Air Pollution Act, a person can be fined €12,700 and yes, they can face imprisonment so the story is factual,” he said.
“Older vulnerable people, who might have gone to their local shop to buy turf or buy it through whatever means they want. They are now facing a situation where this is now illegal.”
The Department of the Environment said it has always been the case that people can be prosecuted for nuisance air pollution from their properties, noting: “The new regulations do not change this in any way.”
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