June 15, 2021

Smoky coal ban must be extended to all parts of Wicklow: TD

A local TD has called for the smoky coal ban to be extended to every town and village across Wicklow.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly, who is also Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson, has urged Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton to respect previous Government commitments and recent EPA recommendations and introduce a full nationwide ban on the burning of smoky coal.

Deputy Donnelly’s comments follow the publication of a report this week which suggests the Government may only extend the existing ban to certain other towns, and that any further action will have to await a new public consultation

But the Wicklow TD said: “This amounts to minor, late and partial steps that are entirely out of line with the scale of the smoky coal problem. It will be cold comfort to huge numbers of families and communities suffering with increasing levels of pollution. Smoky coal is banned in Bray, Arklow, Greystones, Delgany, Wicklow town and Rathnew but there are more parts of Wicklow waiting for the ban to be extended.

“The Government has been aware for over six months that a failure to introduce a nationwide ban would have a major impact on pollution and on public health in those areas not currently covered. During this period the EPA has repeatedly stated that air pollution is reaching dangerous levels as more smoky fuels are being burned. Yet this Government has repeatedly chosen to deflect and delay.

Deputy Donnelly called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Bruton to explain “why supposed issues of competition and legal challenges” regarding smoky coal have “only now been deemed insurmountable”.

He added: “A nationwide ban had been examined and committed to by three previous Government Ministers. Why is the Government playing up legal threats when we’ve seen no successful legal challenges to either existing local bans or to different rates of duty being applied to different fuels?

“The question has to be asked – is this Government more wedded to protecting fossil fuels than protecting the health of its citizens?”

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