Anyone concerned about the climate crisis, biodiversity or air pollution should support the ban on the sale of turf, according to environmentalist John Gibbons.
New regulations set to come into force on September 1st will ban the “placing on the market, sale or distribution” of turf.
In answer to a parliamentary question, the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said people who live on or near a turbary will still be able to cut peat for their own use; however, they will not be able to place it on the market for sale or distribution to others.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has pledged to bring forward a Dáil motion calling for the new rules to be halted – and has encouraged fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs who oppose the rules to vote against the Government on it.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, said the rules are designed to put an end to commercial peat mining on sensitive bogs – not the use of turf fires in rural Ireland.
“People have this idea of someone cutting a bog being someone going with a hod and filling up a bag and bringing it home to the fireplace,” he said. “It is nothing of the sort.
“What we have are industrial turf contractors - folks like Michael Fitzmaurice - who bring out large-scale diggers that extract and cut out the bog using heavy duty equipment. This is not about your local person going down to fill up a little bag of turf.”
He said there are three reasons a ban on the sale of peat is needed.
“The first is, if you have any interest at all in the climate emergency,” he said.
“Number two, if you are concerned about the biodiversity emergency which is right here in Ireland as well and number three, or course, if you care at all about air pollution.
“We know that around 1,300 people die in Ireland every year as a result of air pollution, which is ten times more than we lose on our roads – and we hear nothing about it.
“The strongest sources of air pollution are the burning of particulate matter from solid fuels and from liquid fuels.”
On The Pat Kenny Show meanwhile, Deputy Fitzmaurice warned that the legislation will criminalise people who give turf to their elderly neighbours for free.
“I own a turbary so I can cut turf for my own use, for my own house, for my own fire but if I have an 85-year-old neighbour down the road that doesn’t have a turbary and I, out of the good of my own heart, say well I’m going to help Mary or Johnny down the road, I’m putting it on the market,” he said.
“I’m distributing it because I’m bringing it down to them, even though I wouldn’t actually be taking anything for it, other than the cost of whatever it is to cut it, I’m actually breaking the law if I give them a bag of turf. That’s the madness involved in this.”
He said the the wording of legislation is similar to that used for the sale and supply of drugs, labelling it, “actually appalling”.
“We are in a wartime situation,” he said. “We’re in a situation where people are struggling, actually, to buy oil. 500 litres of oil is €1000. Those people in areas around the country that have the facility of a stove or a fire for €600 or €700 would be able to get enough to keep them going for the winter to keep them warm.
“You talk about climate change and yes, we will all embrace, in a just transition, down the road offshore wind and we will embrace air to water.
“What we’re doing today is we are using a sledge to crack a nut. Let’s do it in a just transitionable way.”
Health over profit
Also on the show, Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly said the legislation is “predominantly about health, rather than emissions”.
“Obviously, if you want to talk about an agenda, both are really important, climate and health, but if you want to talk about this, it is actually about the state of our air quality.”
She said there are about 16 commercial turf cutting operators left in Ireland and warned that it is essential that we put people’s health above the profit of a “small few operators” in Ireland.
You can listen back to Mr Gibbons here: