Eamon Ryan insists ban on sale and distribution of turf will proceed

Minister’s view contradicts comments by Tánaiste, who told TDs ban would be paused

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has insisted that a proposed ban on the sale and distribution of turf will proceed from September.

The Green Party leader said the planned ban had not been paused, contrary to remarks by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to Fine Gael TDs on Thursday evening when he said that removing turf cutting from rural Ireland was like removing wine from the French or pasta from the Italians.

Speaking after he addressed Irish diplomats in Dublin, Mr Ryan said there was “broad agreement” within Government to ban the sale and “big distribution” of turf and that he, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste agreed to work on getting the finer details right on regulating the ban.

The proposal would extend a ban on smoky-fuel from certain cities and towns on a nationwide basis. There is strong opposition to the ban from some Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs in western and midland counties.


Mr Ryan said it was never the intention to stop people cutting turf on their own bogland but that this was made “unclear in the last week because people were just scaring people”.

“It’s not (that) we’re going to put your granny in prison for burning turf from down the road, but it is getting it right where we get our air quality improved.”

He accepted there would be differences but said the scale of change required was so great that “if we do it as a party political thing, a divisive issue, we won’t get the people behind it”.

Not true

The Government had no plans “to regulate someone down to their own bog,” he said.

“It is very easy for everyone to say: this is the Greens telling people in rural Ireland what to do. That’s not true. It’s very easy and popular politically but that’s not the case,” said Mr Ryan.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar said imposing a blanket ban on the sale of turf from September would be going too far and that it should not be illegal for neighbours to sell the fuel to those who use it to heat their homes.

The issue had not yet come before Government, he said, and the details would be presented by Mr Ryan after Easter. The Coalition parties could at that point discuss the issue.

“If we can agree it will go ahead in September,” Mr Varadkar told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show.

Mr Varadkar described reports about his comments on a “pause” in proposals for the introduction of the ban as “semantics”. He said the Coalition operates on good faith and that “this (proposed ban) is an important issue, it hasn’t been agreed yet”.

The Fine Gael leader acknowledged there was a need to take more action on air quality, but he said there was also a need to protect traditional practices. Banning neighbours selling turf was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, he added.


Ireland’s EU Commissioner Máiread McGuinness said that public policy was changing on turf cutting due to the negative effect on the climate but she accepted that some people still relied on turf for fuel.

The Government was working to resolve these issues by listening to the “genuine concerns” of people and making them “part of the solution rather than some people feeling that they are the problem and feeling that they are the problem and feeling quite threatened by,” she said.

“We do need to listen very carefully to how people feel about these changes that are coming and have been coming for some time. Engagement with communities is very important,” she told reporters after addressing the Department of Foreign Affairs' Global Ireland Summit in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said Vat cannot be reduced on home heating oil because “we would have to move everything (at that rate) down”.

Under EU laws governing Vat there were limits to how many rates each country could have, he said, adding that other forms of energy were treated differently to heating oil when it came to the tax.

The Minister defended the Government’s actions around Vat amid the cost of living crisis, saying that it could not protect people “entirely from the impact of war”. The Government had, he said, gotten the balance right during the pandemic and because of that they had been ready for “what came afterwards”.

Step by step the Government was going to help, but he stated that “we can’t do it all”.