Tipperary TD comes out against any immediate ban on cutting turf
Tipperary TD Michael Lowry has come out against any immediate ban on cutting turf.
Bringing home the turf in rural Ireland has long been considered a necessary and noble task. Ending the cutting of turf is ending a tradition. Irish people hold traditions very dear, he said.
"I am opposed to an immediate ban on turf cutting. I voted against the Government on this issue last week," stated Deputy Lowry during a debate on Turf Cutting Regulation in the Dail last Thursday.
The Independent TD said that most in the House knew the dangers of global warming. The threat posed by fossil fuels must be addressed. However, in doing so, we were obliged to take stock of the overall picture.
"This cannot happen overnight. We must allow time for people to change the habits of a lifetime and, more importantly, to make provisions for the future," he said.
Deputy Lowry said that in his native Tipperary they had a village called Littleton. This village and community grew around the operation of the former briquette factory. A large number of locals were employed permanently or part-time at the factory.
As part of their terms of employment the workers were entitled to turf and briquettes at a discounted price. As an obvious result, their homes were, and most still are, heated by solid fuel, cookers and backboilers.
"These households need time to adapt. Now is not the time to force change. Every household is under financial pressure. Money is scarce and budgets are tight. Ability to fund retrofits are constrained. Grant structures for retrofitting requires the applicant to personally contribute a large lump sum. The vast majority of households simply do not have this level of funding available to them," he said.
The Thurles-based TD said that even if an applicant can meet the qualification criteria certified tradesmen were overstretched and unavailable. Carrying out such work was not achievable for many families within an enforced time span.
"Over the past weeks I have been contacted by numerous people involved in the tradition of saving turf. One man has been cutting turf in Tipperary for over 40 years. Down through the years his family have employed up to 50 people, with many more employed seasonally.
"They sell turf as a single source fuel supply to in excess of 300 homes locally. They are now dealing with the third generation of local families. This man states that the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for the turf-cutting business. This is due to inconsistent messaging on the future of turf-cutting," he said
Deputy Lowry told the Dáil that he wanted to quote him to give an accurate reflection of what he and many more were feeling at this time.
"He says: ‘On a daily basis, I am receiving calls from customers, many of whom I would consider to be vulnerable. They are expressing serious concerns about their ability to heat their homes. In the context of the current economic situation, in particular wholesale oil and gas prices, if people have to refrain from burning turf, it is likely that many will be unable to obtain an economically viable heat source for their homes'," said Deputy Lowry.
He is pleading with the Government to make this move in a phased manner to avoid a cliff-edge impact on customers and contractors. His business has invested heavily in machinery, tools and equipment. If a swift ban on turf cutting is implemented, it will not only affect the livelihoods of his employees, but will also write off significant investments by contractors across the country. He cannot be faulted for asking if the Government will offer financial support to them when their businesses are wiped out. Equally, he cannot be blamed for worrying about his customers ability to transition to an alternative heat source for their homes, said the TD.
"It is impossible to explain to people the logic behind imposing costly demands in the middle of the current economic crisis. A time when many people are already juggling the decision on whether to eat or heat their homes.
"The time will come when these decisions can be made. Now is not the time to take unilateral decisions which have a negative impact on vulnerable households," he said.
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