Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told the Dáil that the cutting of peat by people on their own bogs is not a practice the Government intends to ban.
Speaking during Leader's Questions, Mr Martin said it was important to protect people's rights in rural Ireland when it comes to turf, and that the sharing of turf between neighbours and people cutting peat in their own bogs would not be banned.
He said the traditional practices in rural Ireland would continue and he called for a "bit of calm" to resolve the issue pragmatically.
Green Party plans to ban the commercial sale of turf have led to disagreement within the coalition.
Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan met Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers this afternoon to allay their concerns, with one source describing the Fine Gael meeting as heated and robust. The meeting ended without resolution.
After the meeting, Fine Gael TD for South Kerry Brendan Griffen told RTÉ's Drivetime he hoped Mr Ryan would take on board "the strong feelings" of those in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
He added: "All of us would welcome that engagement and hopefully work to resolve this."
Rural opposition TDs have also decried the move.
This evening, the Dáil is debating a Sinn Féin motion calling for a halt to the ban, as it says now is not the right time.
Responding to the motion, the Minister for Public Expenditure said that Government plans to restrict the sale of turf will ensure that air quality is enhanced while not impinging on traditional practices including localised trading.
Michael McGrath told the Dáil that regulations would prohibit the sale of sod peat in "larger agglomerations", while allowing the traditional sale of peat in rural areas.
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In a sometimes-heated Dáil exchange this afternoon with Sinn Féin and the Rural Independents, Mr Martin said smoky coal was the target and not turf.
He added that anything proposed will not impact this winter "in any shape or form".
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald had described an outright ban on turf sales as unfair and unworkable.
Sinn Féin leader @MaryLouMcDonald raises the issue of the ban on the sale of commercial turf. "It's not hard to see why rural households are so frustrated because you placed them between a rock and a hard place." | Read more: https://t.co/MSwPaNRAVY pic.twitter.com/4jQWcEhYu9— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 26, 2022
Branding it as "mad cap and half-baked", she said the timing could not be worse.
"The ban on the sale of turf is a punishment on people who have no alternative way of heating their homes," she said.
She accused the Government of consistently muddying the waters on the issue.
Taoiseach @MichealMartinTD says the Government has put in place a number of measures to help with the cost of living. He adds that the coal industry is the "big villain of the peace here". | More: https://t.co/MSwPaNRAVY pic.twitter.com/M33wpDgw5o— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 26, 2022
Speaking ahead of this morning's Cabinet meeting, Mr Martin had said legislation to ban smoky coal had a "dramatic and transformative impact on the quality of the air that we breathe and it saved many lives".
The Taoiseach said that "ultimately smoky coal is the villain, the real enemy" and that "turf is dying out as a basic fuel".
"We want to be pragmatic about this and get a solution to the fact that many people in rural Ireland, in parts of the west and midlands, use turf from bogs they have or share with their neighbours," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ryan said earlier that he believed plans to ban the commercial sale of turf were "workable and deliverable approach to saving lives".
'Ignoring air pollution... I don't think that's an option or solution' - Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said his proposed ban on the commercial sale of turf is a 'workable, proper, good, legal approach' | Read more: https://t.co/I77b39s29C pic.twitter.com/LD9E1B9qFg— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 26, 2022
It is understood he told his fellow Coalition leaders last night that the draft regulations will "strike a fair balance" between reducing the 1,300 deaths caused every year by air pollution, while respecting the traditional reliance on turf in some rural areas and tackling fuel poverty.
Mr Ryan said three successive governments have tried and failed to address this "because this is difficult".
He said the regulations will focus on the large scale and commercial sale of smoky fuels, particularly smoky coal, while households in small villages, with a population fewer than 500 people, and one-off houses, will still be allowed to burn turf.
He clarified that people who gift or sell small amounts to family and neighbours would not be penalised.
Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett said the proposals on turf cutting are "quite fair as they stand".
Ms Hackett said it was unfortunate to hear Fine Gael TD Michael Ring using words like 'daft' to describe the regulations, that she says are designed to save lives and improve quality of life for people who suffer from respiratory diseases.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Climate and Health Alliance advocacy group has insisted that people "cannot continue to allow air pollution to run amuck" in Ireland.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime programme, Mark Murphy said that the World Health Organization has described air pollution as "a silent public health emergency" and it is now time for Ireland to "take it seriously".
Mr Murphy said that he recognises that turf is "very important and culturally significant for many", but insisted that the ban is necessary to protect lives.
The Climate and Health Alliance represents 18 public health organisations across the country, including the Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Doctors for the Environment and Asthma Society of Ireland.
Additional reporting: Micheál Lehane and Paul Cunningham