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Mattie McGrath said turf is already being cut for winter. (File)
turf wars

Govt told to 'go back to the bog' as Taoiseach pledges 'no ban on use of turf this year'

A Sinn Féin motion is due to be put before a vote in the Dáil this evening.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Apr 2022

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said there will be “no ban on the use of turf for the remainder of the year”. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, Martin said a Sinn Féin motion due in the Dáil later this evening about turf was “full of duplicity” because it also sought to “get rid of the Carbon Tax”. 

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has been championing moves to restrict the commercial sale of turf in Ireland with opponents in the Dáil claiming that the plans would be detrimental to people in rural communities.

The regulations, which were due to come into force from September, have not yet been finalised with a government spokesperson said yesterday that they would be published in the coming weeks. 

An Taoiseach threw some doubt on that timeline today, however, stating: “There is no ban on the use of turf in rural Ireland and there will be no ban for the remainder of the year.”

As envisaged, the regulations being suggested by the minister would not represent a ban on the burning of turf, with no ban either on the sharing of turf with family members or neighbours.  

The clarifications have not been sufficient for several TDs, however, with Independent TD Mattie McGrath telling the Dáil today that people would be “frightened about the turf police coming along”. 

Sinn Féin has called for the turf restrictions to be scrapped, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald saying today that “older people and people on lower incomes with no alternative, will struggle and struggle badly”. 

As well as calling for the scrapping of the turf measures, Sinn Féin’s motion also seeks to cancel the scheduled Carbon Tax increase next week.

Responding to McDonald, Martin said that Sinn Féin’s motion was “full of duplicity” because the Carbon Tax increase is already legislated for and that what they were in effect suggesting was getting rid of it completely. 

He said this would also remove “funding to deal with fuel poverty”. 

Rural Independents 

Martin was speaking amid a second successive day of rowdy debates about turf and the Carbon Tax, with the Rural Independent Group also tabling a motion on the issue. 

The motion from the six TDs seeks to scrap the Carbon Tax and to only allow its reintroduction after a referendum. 

It claims that doing so would “make life much more affordable for all Irish people”.

The motion was tabled by Michael Healy-Rae TD who said he was “not a climate denier” but instead favoured “sensible measures that would protect our environment”.

He gave an example of a return the the use of glass milk bottles rather than plastic ones, something he described as “a meaningful measure”. 

The Carbon Tax is a charge applied to highly carbon-emitting fuels such as coal, peat, oil and natural gas.

The tax is set to increase next month from €33.50 to €41.00 per tonne of carbon, with the government estimating it will add about €20 to the cost of filling a tank of home heating oil and €1.50 a month on gas bills. 

The Rural Independent Group has criticised Sinn Féin’s approach, saying that the party does not go far enough in not calling for the Carbon Tax to go. 

Responding to the motion from the Rural Independent Group, Labour’s Ged Nash TD said that those who proposed it say they are concerned with working people and child poverty but are not.  

“If it was poverty that the Rural Independent Group was concerned about then they would be arguing day in and day out for the redistribution of wealth in this unequal society,” he said.  

Nash went on to say that some of the signatories of the bill had argued for the abolition of the Universal Social Charge which he said supports services for “lower paid people in this country”. / YouTube

His contribution was then heckled by members of the Rural Independent Group, with Michael Collins TD asking if Nash had “forgotten about what the Labour Party did with the women’s pension?”. 

Michael Healy-Rae said that Nash “has no manners”, adding: “We all know what Labour did when it had power.”

In response, Nash said: “I won’t take lectures from the millionaires opposite, who couldn’t give a toss about low income families in this country.” 

Mattie McGrath TD raised the ongoing row of the government’s plans to restrict the sale of turf, saying that the government needed “a trip back to the bog”. 

“The lunatics are running the asylum when you hear this kind of plan. The people of Tipperary and west Waterford are in the bog already cutting the turf for this winter,” he said. 

McGrath went on to criticise Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s comparison between turf and wine, describing wine as “an elite drink”.  

“The Tánaiste likes to be flippant and tell them all that taking turf off the people is like taking wine off the people. It is a sexy kind of talk.  It is nice and emotive and everything else.”

I remember there were often ten men with a tractor and trailer who went to Monaincha Bog.  There were also women.  It was equal opportunities.  They loaded the turf in bags and double trailers, brought it home, had a fine feed of bacon and cabbage, a drop for the road, maybe a bag or two of turf for the driver of the tractor, and they gave stuff to their neighbours. 

“It is more important to the people of rural Ireland than wine, which is an elite drink,” he said. 

The Dáil will vote on the motions later this evening. 

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