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Turf ban will lead to smuggling, claims independent TD

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed that the proposed ban on turf will lead to cross-border smuggling from Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, the ban on the sale of turf, smoky coal and wet wood came into force, spearheaded by the Green Party, with the government saying that that the move is necessary to improve air quality in rural areas.

While people will still be allowed to cut turf themselves and gift it to others, Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice says that the policy will simply result in smuggling over the border to Northern Ireland where turf is still legal to buy and sell freely.

“Plenty of it will come across the border,” he said, speaking to Newstalk this week.

“They’ve done it before; we all heard about the diesel that came across and this will be no different. There’s plenty of fuels will come across the border and Minister [Eamon] Ryan will actually, probably, do more harm than good.”

The development comes as Independent Kerry TD Micheal Healy-Rae told Newstalk that he was concerned that people could be prosecuted for burning turf under the Air Pollution Act.

“Under the Air Pollution Act, a person can be fined €12,700 and yes, they can face imprisonment so the story is factual,” he said, referring to a story in the Irish Daily Mail claiming that people could face up to two years in prison for excessive turf burning.

The story was disputed by Minister of State Jack Chambers, who said that “practices in respect of turf are unaffected by these regulations.”

Minister Eamon Ryan previously said that there was “huge misinformation and disinformation” surrounding the legislation.

This was, again, countered by Michael Healy-Rae TD, who said that “Older vulnerable people, who might have gone to their local shop to buy turf or buy it through whatever means they want. They are now facing a situation where this is now illegal.”

The turf ban has been extremely contentious since it was first proposed, with Fine Gael TDs warning Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that the matter could “bring down the government.”

While this is taking place, the European Commission is threatening Ireland with legal action if the country continues to allow the cutting of peat within Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

These SAC zones, according to the EU, are “designated areas of conservation for raised bogs and blanket bogs under the EU habitats directive.” According to the European Commission, both the European Green Deal and the 2023 Biodiversity Strategy identify peat bogs as “vital carbon sinks when healthy,” meaning these locations were an essential part of European green climate policy.

The Irish government must now halt peat cutting in these areas within two months, or be dragged before the European Court of Justice.

 

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