C: Eric McNulty

That’s one way of getting around it: Limerick businessman advertises turf as ‘hardened Irish mud’

A Co Limerick businessman has got people talking after advertising his sods of turf as “mud” in joke protest at the Government’s proposed ban on the sale of peat and other fossil fuels.

“Bags of decorative hardened Irish mud for sale,” an advert outside McNulty’s filling station reads, next to sods of turf. “For decorative use only – not to be burned in fire,” the poster adds.

Eric McNulty, owner of McNulty’s filling station, shop and fuel store in the Limerick town of Hospital, says the proposed ban on the sale of turf, spearheaded by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, will impact his business and customers as the cold weather starts to bite. 

A banner on a shopping trolley outside the filling station also reads: “The Eamon Ryan Winter Trolley: He wants to outlaw everything on here, so buy your fuel now before he bans it”. 

The main effect of the proposed regulations will be to bring an end to the sale of smoky coal, which is the “main contributor to air pollution in Ireland”, according to Minister Ryan. The new regulations, to come into effect on 31 October, will also restrict the sale of wet wood, and small bags of wood will also be required to have a moisture content less than 25 per cent. 

In response to the ‘tongue in cheek’ advert, many social media users praised McNulty for his “creative thinking,” with droves of people saying they “loved” it. The advert was described as “ingenious” by many on Twitter, with one user adding: “Definitely thinking outside the box”.

It comes as Environment Minister Eamon Ryan last month signed off on regulations to ban the sale of turf following months of contention from rural TDs, who have been vocal over the turf issue. 

Speaking in April, Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan said there was a sense of disbelief and anger within rural communities following the revelation. “Are we really at the stage where a rural family with a sign outside their property advertising the sale of a few bags of turf are to be treated as eco-criminals? This is grossly disproportionate and unjust, and it needs to be resisted immediately from every rural and indeed every urban TD within the Government,” she said.

Householders across Ireland have traditionally burned coal or turf to heat their homes, but are now facing the prospect of a colder winter with the country-wide ban on smoky coal coming into effect from 31 October. Retail sales of turf are to be banned on the same date, as homeowners continue to battle an escalating energy crisis which has seen the price of home heating oil double in the last year. 

After 31 October, householders in Ireland will have a grace period to burn any stocks of smoky coal they already have before moving to smokeless coal. Only those who have turbury rights to harvest turf, and the family or friends they sell or give the turf to, will be allowed to burn turf.

Petrol stations, including the likes of McNulty’s in Hospital, along with other retail outlets, shops, fuel depots, and online sales of turf and smoky coal, will be banned from selling turf from 31 October. Unlawful turf sales in retail outlets, local newspapers, and on online platforms, will be penalised under the 1987 Air Pollution Act from this winter onwards, with local councils responsible for enforcing the impending clampdown. 

It is believed that local authority staff will receive training, and a fund of €250,000 is to be made available for “pilot enforcement projects”, as ‘turf for sale’ adverts continue to feature on websites including DoneDeal.ie. 

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