There were sharp exchanges in the Dáil last night in the debate on the Climate Bill, as rural TDs railed against the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, for what they described as a “complete attack on rural Ireland”.
Kerry TD, Michael Healy-Rae, said that the Minister was “ecstatic with himself when he announced the shutting down of Bord na Móna on one of the few occasions he has left Dublin in recent months”
“It is the same as the way he did away with Bord na Móna. The Minister left Dublin one day and went to the midlands so proud of himself for shutting down Bord na Móna. Bord na Móna was a great organisation and it built houses for its workers over the years. Families were reared on the backs of that great Bord na Móna organisation. The Minister was so ecstatic with himself when he announced the shutting down of Bord na Móna on one of the few occasions he has left Dublin in recent months.”
He asked the Minister how he could be proud of such an action given that “today moss peat is coming into the North of Ireland for distribution around the country because we have stopped harvesting our own peat.”
“How can he be proud of the fact we are no longer producing bales of briquettes here? ” he said.
Michael Healy-Rae on Eamon Ryan's dictatorial attitude on "climate action" measures, and his perverse pride in having destroyed Bord na Móna. pic.twitter.com/MBU7Ms8VvD
— JRD (@JRD0000) June 16, 2021
The Kerry TD also said he was “truly shocked and terribly disappointed by the Minister’s statement that he does not care what amendments are brought forward, by whom or from what party or non-party, as it makes no real difference.”
“The Minister is saying to the Irish people tonight that it is the green way or no way. It is Eamon Ryan’s way or nobody’s way. The Minister wants this to be more like a dictatorship than anything else and that is wrong. He should act as a democrat and parliamentarian who takes on board other people’s points of view and respects them,” Deputy Healy-Rae said.
“I, for one, have listened continuously to what the Minister and the Green Party want. I have seen how the Minister used his party’s political muscle over Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, ensuring that because of the way seats fell in the last election it sees its opportunity. It is like a wasp, which does not care if it dies once it gets a final sting. The Minister does not care what happens in future to the Green Party; all he wants is to be able to say the party put in place a system that cannot be changed by future Governments or Ministers for Finance,” he claimed.
“I am talking about just transition. I ask the Minister, very clearly, where is the justness and fairness in this process. I have heard him say we will create green jobs instead of brown jobs but that is probably the biggest load of balderdash and nonsense. How can the Minister seriously sit there and think the Irish people will take this on board and let it wash? It is wrong,” he said
“The Minister speaks about rewetting the great bogs of Allen, where people worked or slaved, staying in tents in encampments, working day and night to drain them. With one swoop of the Green Party biro, the Minister has consigned them to being rewetted. That act is a sin. I have heard the Minister talking about holding carbon in the ground but how can he ask us to take that suggestion seriously when we are still importing these goods from overseas for sale here without a problem? At the same time, the Minister wants to gently get to the stage where he will stop farmers and other individuals from having the right to cut turf,” he added.
Deputy Healy-Rae claimed that the Greens did not have a mandate for the Climate Bill.
“The Minister is not yet strong enough to do it. He has Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael where he wants them because he can keep them in power so long as he stays in his position. He will be able to railroad his way through the Irish people. The Green Party has a minute mandate, although I respect it very much. It is a very small mandate when compared with the enormity of the Minister’s actions. The number of people who gave the Minister and his Green Party colleagues a number one vote is small, although I respect everybody who voted for the party. It is democracy at work. We can consider the influence of the Minister in the Government. How can he stand over his actions and sleep at night? I do not know,” he said.
“The Minister is being very cocky in not accepting any of the amendments. He would not even listen to the debate on them. These amendments will be gone through one by one. We will go through the Bill line by line. I am very proud of my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group under Deputy Mattie McGrath who have worked diligently on this like everybody else who tabled amendments,” he said. “We are standing up for farmers, fishermen and people in the rural countryside.”
I am very conscious that I am speaking to the amendment because it is about transition and how we go from here to there. It is about the fairness of it. I cannot understand how the Minister can stand over some of the measures being proposed, even in the period to 2030, including the suggestion that slurry spreading and such farming practices be carried out by 100% renewable resources, in other words, an electric tractor. I have information for the Minister. We do not yet have such a thing in Ireland and we do not yet have a battery operated tractor in Europe that would be powerful enough to pull 2,000 or 3,000 gallons of slurry out of a yard and spread it outside in a field. I must inform the Minister that there is no such thing.
“Where is the fairness or the just transition in this?” he asked.
Minister Ryan said that he was rejecting all amendments because “they don’t strengthen the Bill further” and that it was time to “to set a high bar” and to begin the implementation of Climate measures.