The ban on the sale of smoky coal, which has been in place in larger towns for some time, will be extended countrywide from Autumn next year.

It is understood Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten intends to allow coal distributors 12 months from then to sell off existing stocks before a total ban comes into effect in 2019.

Mr Naughten says clean air and air quality is a priority with around one in five children in Ireland being treated for asthma.

The burning of bituminous or smoky coal is one the worst offenders when it comes to air pollution, including particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.

A ban on the sale of smoky coal was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 where research showed it resulted in 350 fewer deaths per year throughout the city.

By 2013 the ban had been extended to the next 25 largest urban areas in the country.

The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly highlighted that during winter months - when solid fuel is being burned - air quality is significantly worse in smaller towns and villages than it is in larger towns and cities.

Minister Naughten had been waiting for EU clearance before he could extend the ban countrywide.

Heat pump grant to be introduced in April

A new Government grant of €3,500 for the installation of heat pumps to replace fossil fuel heating in domestic homes is to be introduced from April next year.

The measure is part of a range of actions included in a memo to today's Cabinet meeting by Minister Naughten.

The package of measures also includes a 33% increase in the grant for external wall insulation which will go up to €6,000 for a detached house, €4,500 for a semidetached house, and €2,750 euro for a mid-terraced house or apartment.

The minister is also ending Government grants supporting fossil fuels in heating including the ending of SEAI grants for the installation of more efficient gas boilers.

However, there will be compensatory increase in the grant for the installation of heating controls which will increase from €600 to €700 per household.

Electric car charger grant to be announced

A new grant of €600 for the installation of an electric car charger in domestic homes is to be announced today.

The grant, which was signalled in October's Budget will be available from 1 January and will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

There are around 3,500 electric vehicles in Ireland according to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, and a network of nearly 900 public charting points are available.

Funding was also provided in the budget for the rolling out of an additional 50 super-fast electric car charging points around the country during 2018.