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Senator Roisin Garvey: Photograph by John Kelly

Sod’s law: Greens defend turf sale ban on health grounds

NEWS that the sale of turf is set to be banned from September has drawn criticism from one Clare Oireachtas member but been defended by another.

The proposed ban is being justified on environmental and public health grounds by the Green Party, but Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe has said it is excessive.

Green Party Senator Róisín Garvey defended the move and said that people will still have the right to save their own turf and will be allowed to rent a bank if they wish to do so.

She also said that people who would have bought a load of turf for the winter can purchase timber instead, which she said is more cost effective and provides more warmth.

“It has a higher calorific value, so you get more heat off it.”

Senator Garvey said that 1,300 people per annum die due to air pollution, and that turf is a particularly problematic fuel.

“The people burning it in open fires are definitely doing damage to their lungs. Even if it’s burned in a stove, once you open the stove, dust goes everywhere and all those particles stay in the air. There’s a huge health issue unfortunately.”

Burning timber instead of turf offers people both health and financial benefits, she reiterated, while she said the Asthma Society of Ireland are in favour of the prohibition.

Given the climate crisis, major shifts in behaviour are required, Senator Garvey added, “Everything has to change unfortunately, including the sale of turf.”

“In recent years, we have seen a huge scaling back of large-scale commercial turf cutting in the Midlands, but a continuance of small-scale turf harvesting has been permitted and bags of turf could be purchased in rural counties like Clare in shops and from local fuel merchants.

“This is a relatively small industry but an important one nonetheless in a county like Clare and with fuel poverty now very much on the increase, people should not have the option of burning turf sods taken from them this year.”

Mr Crowe, however, has said that the Green Party had not consulted with other parties in government, and the proposal is excessive.

Cathal Crowe, TD: the move is imposing more hardship on Clare families.

“People are already making huge sacrifices and I feel that Minister Ryan’s proposal, without any consultation with partners in government including Fianna Fáil is, for now, a step too far.

“We are now in the middle of April and temperatures have yet to pick up and many homes are still lighting fires at night to keep warm but the real worries for families lie in the autumn and winter months ahead when many will struggle to purchase fuels to heat their homes.”

Willie Hanrahan, West Clare chairman of the IFA, said that the prohibition is something of a stunt by the Green party.

“You’re hitting the lowest of the low here. I’m looking out at Moneypoint, there are boatloads of coal going up there, they’d burn more in a day than we’d burn in ten years.

“It’s almost a PR thing for the Greens, they’re going to save the world by stopping a few of us burning a few sods of turf,” said Mr Hanrahan.

“They can’t close down Moneypoint, they haven’t enough green energy to keep the country going, so you go for the low hanging fruit instead.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.