Varadkar on a collision course with the Greens after being exposed to Fine Gael TD plans to ban the sale of turf


TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar went on a collision course with the Greens last night after telling his party that a plan to ban the sale of turf in September will be suspended.

r Varadkar announced the pause at a meeting of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party hours after Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan vigorously defended the move.

The coalition is now at odds after a spokesman for Mr Ryan denied there was a pause in the plan.

They said: “Minister Ryan agreed to look into the implementation of the regulations but there was no agreement on a pause.

Responding to Mr Ryan, who said there was no break, Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said: “No detailed proposals have yet been presented to the Government. The Environment Ministry will do this after Easter and it will then be discussed by the parties.”

News of the impending ban has sparked a backlash from rural backbenchers in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen slammed Mr Ryan, saying: “If Minister Ryan has three times as many seats as my party and elected members of Dáil Eireann in Offaly and the region then he might have the power to initiate such proposals but he doesn’t , as long as the numbers and support are stacked in our favor”.

In an online meeting Wednesday night, Mr Varadkar reportedly told TDs and senators that it was like telling the French they can’t have wine or the Italians they can, telling those who cut peat and sell that they could no longer do this no pasta”.

Sources said he told party colleagues the plan would be on hold until details were clearer. He did not provide any information about the duration of the break.

The Tánaiste informed the meeting that he had been contacted by a large number of FG TDs on the subject. The move to pause all lawnmowing changes was widely welcomed, including by backbenchers Brendan Griffin and Joe Carey, and Senators Seán Kyne, Tim Lombard and Aisling Dolan.

Longford-based Sen. Micheál Carrigy told the meeting he hadn’t seen such a harsh reaction to the sod cutting proposal since the backlash against water pricing nearly a decade ago.

Earlier this week it emerged that Mr Ryan, the leader of the Greens, intended to press ahead with plans to ban turf sales, prompting a backlash from the coalition’s backbenchers.

Fianna Fáil, TD for Offaly Barry Cowen, said the proposal amounted to an outright ban on the commercial sale of turf and said he would meet Mr Ryan to discuss the proposal.

“We can live with the ban on gas station, retail or curbside sales, but there should be a provision for dependent households and bogowners/cutters,” he said.

Another backbencher, Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill, told Tipp FM earlier this week, “To ban the sale or gift of turf without offering an immediate, viable and inexpensive alternative is just not hip.”

Asked by Mr Griffin in a Written Parliamentary Question whether people can continue to cut and sell peat after September 2022, when new solid fuel regulations are due to come into force, Mr Ryan said: “You [the new regulations] needed as around 1,300 people in Ireland die prematurely every year from air pollution caused by burning solid fuels. Research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency also shows that peat’s contribution to air pollution is significant.

“Mowing lawns by citizens for use in their own homes is a traditional activity in many peatlands and while action is needed to reduce emissions associated with peat burning, these traditions are respected.

“Therefore, in order to accommodate those who have the right to harvest sod peat, no ban on cutting or burning is introduced, but a legal provision is made to prohibit the placing on the market, sale or distribution of sod peat.

“As such, persons who have turbary rights may continue to extract peat to heat their own homes, but they may not place it on the market for sale or distribution to others.” Varadkar on a collision course with the Greens after being exposed to Fine Gael TD plans to ban the sale of turf

Fry Electronics Team

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