Eamon Ryan prepares to climb over proposed ban on turf sales and distribution to ‘protect the little guy’
ut private that Green party feels like a ‘little guy’ being beaten up by bigger ones as Ryan has to explain himself to parliamentary parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil after the Easter holidays.
Sources in the ranks of the third coalition partner privately raged at being mugged by him Leo Varadkarbut also accuse government officials of drafting regulations in the dark without referring to their political overseers.
After acknowledged damage had been done, the Greens woke up yesterday to the idea that there may need to be a statement this week outlining a solution – one that needs to be on behalf of all three party leaders, rather than allowing the problem to continue smolders.
Ryan’s approval rating has dropped significantly in recent polls, six points over the past week Irish times poll to just 19 percent, less than half his closest main party rival, Mary Lou McDonald, to 42 percent.
Also of concern is that the Greens are at 3 percent, a serious drop from the 7 percent where they won 12 seats in 2020.
Senior advisers were stunned by Tánaiste’s anti-peat comments at last Wednesday’s group meeting, describing our affinity for peat as the French have for wine and the Italians have for pasta.
“That was planned. He knew what he was doing. It would guarantee headlines and give Fine Gael a little credibility with the common people of Ireland,” said one political handler. “He stands by them and wants them to stand by him, like that.”
Fine Gael is now aggressively fighting for market share everywhere, the retailer suggested.
Any doubt as to Varadkar’s intentions as he overdid the subject with a typically effective turn of phrase was banished by what came next.
He announced that the sales ban on turf had been paused from September. That forced a spokesman for Environment Secretary Ryan to make a categorical denial.
He said the minister had agreed to look into implementing the regulations “but there was no agreement on a pause”. The Greens were forced to dig further into their hole.
This weekend the party was keen to explain what had happened, even if the advisers were aware that explaining is politically doomed.
It all started with a zeal for reform: a plan set out in the agreed government program to ban the use of smoked charcoal across the country.
Dublin has enjoyed clean air for more than three decades, since Mary Harney banned its use in the capital. But the fuel has found its way out of Northern Ireland.
Respiratory diseases kill 1,300 people each year, and it is estimated that an effective ban on smoking charcoal nationwide would save 350 lives a year. So far, so good.
But policymakers were surprised when coal suppliers, including those from outside the state, threatened legal action against any targeting of their product. They claimed that EU fairness and competition rules mean all solid fuels that emit harmful particles should be subject to a ban, including wet wood and peat.
In response, officials drafted the air pollution regulations to avoid exposing the state to legal challenges and intended to achieve large commercial peat sales — the large pocket-type sold at gas stations and convenience stores nationwide.
No one foresaw that it would become a portrayal of the nanny state attacking one of the very foundations of who we are as a people.
A response to a parliamentary question highlighted the blue touchpaper on last week’s row over the nature of Irishism and the role of government.
Fine Gael backbencher Brendan Griffin asked about the inclusion of turf in the new rules, which are due to take effect in the autumn. Ryan wrote in response to confirm that the new regulations “prohibit the placing on the market, sale or distribution of sod peat.”
The response did not make it clear that the authorities’ only ever intention was to contain large commercial operators so that they could primarily control smoked charcoal.
Suddenly the backbenchers revolted. Eamon Ryan didn’t help himself. His Dublin statements focused on individuals, not large outlets. Your grandma won’t go to jail, he said. Grandmas everywhere could have panicked immediately – while everyone else grabbed the club for them.
The fact is that the proposed rules are of a civil and not criminal nature. So in the unlikely event of prosecution by their local authority, Granny Planetburner would at worst face a small county court fine.
In reality, such prosecutions would never be brought, and people with turbar rights can continue to extract peat to heat their own homes, just not for sale or distribution to others. It was purely a technical inclusion.
This weekend, the Greens insisted that a “landing zone” to solve the problem was clearly on the horizon. Party advisers spoke of the inclusion of de minimis provisions – a legal term meaning too small to be taken into account. Grandma will get out.
But while the Greens may once again be too focused on the wood for the trees, the Greens might also consider minimizing the political fallout that have now comprehensively destroyed their rural appeal.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/ryan-is-ready-to-concede-defeat-on-turf-cutting-ban-after-outcry-41560234.html Ryan is “ready to concede defeat over the lawn mowing ban” after the outcry.