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Taoiseach was warned turf-cutting restrictions would be a 'big issue'

A junior minister warned the Taoiseach any move to restrict the cutting of turf would become a “big issue” across the Midlands and that common sense needed to prevail.

Micheál Martin also received representations from the public with several warning of protests and one saying it would be the “last straw” for rural Ireland.

Others called on him to sack Environment Minister and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan who, in the correspondence, appeared to take the brunt of the criticism.

The Taoiseach was also contacted by multiple Fianna Fáil representatives warning of the repercussions of any attempt to curtail the sale of turf.

'Common sense'

In a letter, Minister of State Robert Troy said affording flexibility to homeowners at a time of rising energy prices was the “right and fair thing to do". 

He wrote to the Taoiseach’s office saying: “I know there is plenty coming across your desk at the moment, however, this will become a big issue in Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, and Tipperary.

“Some common sense will have to prevail and flexibility in relation to the domestic harvesting of peat.” 

The Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill said any move to restrict the sale of turf would be “a cause for serious concern in my constituency”.

He told the Taoiseach: “The political impact of this decision to ban the sale and gifting of turf will far outweigh the environmental impact of it. Feelings are running extremely high in my constituency for the last 24 hours.” 

He said Fianna Fáil could not stand over any such policy during an energy crisis, and that it was “greatly incensing” anti-Green sentiment in rural areas.

'Criminal supply'

Fianna Fáil Senator Paul Daly also wrote about his concerns saying a member of his family could be “criminalised” for supplying turf to the rest of the family.

“There are many similar family non-commercial arrangements in existence through rural Ireland,” he said, “not to mention the good neighbourly arrangements where many of our elderly rural dwellers (with solid fuel only heating systems) are often supplied with turf for very little or no financial reward by neighbouring farmers.” 

Former minister Barry Cowen also called for an urgent meeting saying he had been assured before Easter that no decision would take place before Minister Eamon Ryan met with him and a number of party colleagues.

Mr Cowen said turf cutting was already in decline across the country, adding: “In the meantime, long held traditions and options whereby turf meets the needs of a diminishing, but vulnerable sector must be respected and retained.” 

Members of the public also expressed their fury with one correspondent saying it was once again a case of the Green Party “tail wagging the dog”.

“Nobody voted to have [Eamon Ryan] and his Green Party in a coalition and I doubt anyone would again if given the choice,” said their letter.

Another forwarded an article about turf restrictions saying simply: “Are you going to let Eamon Ryan walk all over rural Ireland with this proposal?” 

An emotional plea was also sent from one elderly Galway resident who wrote: “We go to the bog and save turf ourselves and it is good for my mental health to get out and about.”

 They said the price of petrol, home heating oil, electricity, food, and clothing were all rising and that they had no savings to retrofit their house or improve its energy efficiency.