Thank you Damien O’Reilly and 'Saturday with' on RTE Radio 1 today for the opportunity to voice my position on turf burning. There has been a lot of scaremongering and misinformation across the Midlands recently, for a variety of purposes.
To clarify the current situation: There is a DRAFT Clean Air Strategy which is now open for Public Consultation. Draft regulations on the sale of solid fuel are referenced in this strategy - I discuss those related to turf below.
To clarify my position: I am not in favour of a ban on small scale gifting of turf. I have asked Minister Eamon Ryan to clarify the situation re the distribution of small amounts of turf to family members and neighbours, where there are turbary rights. I am in favour of a ban on commercial scale extraction and sale of turf as this contributes to air pollution in the more urban areas.
I know that many households in the Midlands and most of all Offaly rely on turf from these providers and I have asked Minister Ryan and my Government colleagues to consider solutions to this in advance of the coming winter. I will continue to work on this.
The Clean Air Strategy is a public health measure, necessary to address ill health and death associated with poor air quality. These health impacts are indisputable. For now, remember this is a DRAFT strategy and regulations are also in draft form.
The draft strategy states ‘Turf cutting by citizens for use in their own homes is a traditional activity […] Measures are required to reduce the emissions associated with burning peat but which respect these traditions.’
‘No ban on its burning will be introduced, but a regulatory provision will be made to prohibit the marketing, sale or distribution of sod peat. This approach will facilitate those with turbary rights to continue to cut and burn sod peat for their own domestic purposes, while also reducing the use of sod peat in urban areas.’
I agree with this approach to include allowances for small scale distribution to family and neighbours in rural areas. Living in Offaly I am fully aware of the impact an all out ban on burning would have on households already to the pin of their collar.
Right now, I encourage anyone who may be borderline to check relatively new eligibility criteria for fuel allowance (Citizen's Information) . If you qualify for Fuel Allowance and certain other social welfare payments, you also qualify for 100% funded home energy upgrades.
Look into individual measures for improving energy efficiency of your home. With grants for insulation of up to 80% (SEAI home energy grants) please don't decide you can't afford it until you have priced it and considered the reduction in costs / bills.
I say all of the above aware of the necessary and urgent need to conserve and restore or rehabilitate as much of our bogland as possible in our struggle to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.
You can listen back to today's programme on RTE Radio 1; this topic starts at 37 minutes.