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16 May 2022

Cowen favours ban on retail sales of turf but repeats opposition to outright prohibition

Turf cut on bog

Turf drying on an Offaly bog

OFFALY Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen has said some households should be allowed buy turf from local cutters, but retail sales should be banned.

Deputy Cowen has also again blamed the ESB for Ireland's high energy prices and said the issue deserves the Government's attention.

In a letter to An Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, the Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan and other key ministers, the Clara TD noted a just transition plan which the Government will be submitting to the EU Commission for approval.

He commended the Government for matching EU funding of €84.5m but said it was now over three years since he went to Brussels with Fianna Fail Cllr Eamon Dooley to lobby for the inclusion of Ireland's peat regions in the Coal Regions of Europe, an important designation in the context of decarbonisation.

Deputy Cowen also welcomed what he said appeared to be “universal backing” for the appointment of the Midlands East Regional Authority as the administrative entity to deliver just transition.

“I further acknowledge the Government's ongoing commitment to the ring fencing of revenue derived from annual increases in carbon tax for the provision of initiatives assisting in the transition away from dependency on fossil fuels,” he said.

He said it is vital that the retrofitting of households dependent on solid fuel for heating be afforded an 80% grant, as an upgrade to grants already available.

On the controversial turf sale ban he said: “I would also encourage Government to ensure policy and directives omit turf-dependent households and recognise their need to obtain turf either by virtue of their own property rights or if having to purchase from local turf cutters.

“I agree any such sales should not be advertised or transacted in or at retail outlets.

“I've no doubt that with incentives mentioned, together with updated building guidelines, the practice of turf cutting will cease organically in years to come.”

Deputy Cowen went on to specifically mention Offaly County Council's contribution to the just transition territorial plan and highlighted analysis carried out by EnvEcon which found that Offaly is the county most negatively affected by accelerated decarbonisation, followed by Longford, Westmeath and Laois.

“I've no doubt that targeted funding should reflect these findings from weighted multi criteria assessment.”

In relation to the ESB, he reminded the Taoiseach and other ministers that he made a complaint to the European Commission about the activities of the ESB and recently met with the Energy Commissioner with MEP Billy Kelleher.

“I believe Government needs to be proactive in this matter as the consequences of inaction on the ESB's territorialism is part of the reason for Ireland having way out of line energy costs. This is a serious matter for consumers and industry and deserves attention by Government.”

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