The Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said plans to ban the sale of commercial turf have not been paused.

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time tonight, he said the Government had to work together to get the regulations right.

The Minister said this was about public health and saving lives.

He said that the Government have engaged in a detailed public consultation and that people's concerns must be listened to so that cleaner air can be developed, particularly in rural Ireland.

Mr Ryan said that people who have access to a bog will be able to continue what they have been doing in recent years.

He said that this was not just about turf it was also about getting rid of smoky coal. He said it was all based on air quality and improving people’s health.

Earlier, Minister Ryan said: "It's not putting your granny in prison for burning turf, but it is getting it right where we get air quality improved."

Responding, Sinn Féin’s Darren Rourke said the this could not be taken out of context of the energy crisis and the cost of living crisis.

He said many people were depended on turf to heat their homes. He said the Government had made "a hames" of the issue.

Deputy O'Rourke said a transition away from solid fuels needed to be managed and the worst affected must be supported.

Turf issue sparks row in coalition

The proposed turf sale ban has sparked discontent within the coalition.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said this morning that there was no agreement in Government to go ahead with a prohibition on the sale and distribution of turf.

"In a coalition, you operate on the basis of good faith and no surprises and nothing is agreed until the three parties agree it and it hasn't been agreed as yet," Mr Varadkar said.

Such a move, he said, would be like using "a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar told party colleagues that a move to ban the commercial sale of turf from September would be paused due to a lack of detail on the plan.

The Department of the Environment is to produce draft regulations on clean air including the previously announced nationwide ban on smoky coal.

Minister Eamon Ryan had said in a reply to a parliamentary question last week that these regulations would also include a ban in September on the sale of commercial turf.

The regulations will be discussed by the three party leaders after Easter. Mr Ryan said he spoke to the Tánaiste last night and they work well together.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was not the Government's intention to interfere with the basic rights of families and people who have their own bogs and who use turf in their own domestic fires.

He believes the Government can find a resolution to the issue and said it has plenty of time to do that.

Mr Martin said discussions on the issue will continue, but there is a question with air quality in some big towns where smoky coal continues to be used.

But he said you cannot legally ban smoky coal without a ban on other fuels and this is an issue.

'They haven't been agreed because I haven't seen them'

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the regulations have not been agreed and that he did not think that Mr Ryan would dispute that.

"They haven't been agreed because I haven't seen them, nor has the Taoiseach, and I'm not sure - perhaps Minister Ryan has seen them - but I'm not sure they even exist at this stage," he said.

"There's still meetings going on at the moment involving officials in the Attorney General's office, So I think the source of the confusion is that a message went out there that there is going to be a ban on the sale and distribution of turf and people don't actually know what that means.

"Now, I'm reassured by some of the things that I have heard during the day from Minister [Malcolm] Noonan of the Green Party and Minister Ryan that there is no intention to prevent people from cutting their own turf and using it in their own house and it's not intended to criminalise people who would, say, sell turf to a neighbour or even give it to a neighbour - that is distribution, so I am reassured by some of those noises."

Mr Varadkar added that the devil is in the detail and that he would like to see this written down.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton said that Minister Ryan envisages "going beyond" what was "expected" would be contained in plans for a nationwide ban on the burning of smoky coal.

Mr Bruton, who is on the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, has said that "no-one has seen the regulations that the minister [for the Environment, Eamon Ryan] is bringing forward.

He said: "When he [Eamon Ryan] announced last September that he would have regulations coming in for this winter, he spoke of coal and manufactured peat only.

"He didn't list sod peat being restricted in terms of its sale. So it now seems from a parliamentary reply that he is envisaging going beyond what he announced after the detailed consultation, and I think this raised alarm bells."

Mr Bruton said there is a genuine concern that if there was a blanket block on the sale of sod turf, this would have "very significant disruption on very low-income households who have the worst heating systems" and he also said it would be going beyond what was announced at a time of very, very high energy costs.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said he would like to see a written, unambiguous commitment from the Environment Minister Eamon Ryan that a proposed ban would not cover small transactions on turf in local communities.

The Laois Offaly TD said he and other colleagues would meet the Minister next week to discuss the matter.

He said there are long-standing relationships in local areas that must be protected.

Proposed turf sale ban 'causing enormous anxiety'

The head of Irish Rural Link has said the proposed ban on the commercial sale of turf in Ireland from September is "causing enormous anxiety" for many households.

Séamus Boland said "lots of people are worried they will not be able to make any attempt" to change the method of heating their homes away from burning turf in time for next winter.

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Speaking on RTÉ's Six One news Mr Boland said that despite a day of clarifications on the controversy from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and Minister Ryan, the "uncertainty still lingers" and he has called on the coalition leaders "to find a resolution quickly to ease the huge anxiety that's there at the moment".

Mr Boland accepted that fewer people have been burning turf in recent years, but said the fall in the use of the fuel had been slower in the Midlands than elsewhere as turf is more available in this region.

'Transition period needed'

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who cuts turf on his own bog in Co Galway, said there needs to be a transition period and engagement with the industry.

Mr Fitzmaurice, who is also the chairperson of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, said "last week the regulation seemed to be written, today the regulation doesn't seem to be written at all".

Reacting to the Minister Ryan’s assertion in the Dáil last week, that the proposed ban on the sale and distribution of turf would come into force on 1 September, he said "you cannot just wham-bang announce something in a Parliamentary Question that comes into the Dáil and leave a lot of people uneasy, unsure and above all frustrated with what's going on".

He urged the Government "not go down a road of antagonising people, especially our elderly, who were good to this country".

"What they're trying to do at the moment is make criminals out of people in rural Ireland and we will not stand for that."

"There's a reality here that some of those people might have a stove or a range" and not an oil boiler or gas, he said.

Mr Fitzmaurice also said he believes the use of turf "will phase out in its own time over the next 10 to 12 years".

"As new technology and as better options for heating your home comes in, people will embrace that and they will vote with their feet," he added.

‘No other option’

Marty Ward from Glinsk in Co Galway said he depends on turf to heat his home, similar to many other families in the area.

Speaking to RTÉ News at Strangeforth Bog, he said that "it's not only this generation but in generations gone by, it's a tradition".

"It's also a whole way of life, but it's a real lifeline for families that have no other option only to heat their homes in this way," he said.

Mr Ward added that "turf has such a warm place, I suppose, in the in the hearts of people".

Around 3,000 acres of bog in the area has been preserved, with just over 100 acres used by families as their source of fuel, he said.

"Lots of families here have no other option, I have no other option."

"People like us that have used turf over the years and where it's their only source of fuel, they will have no other option only to continue.

"They won't be able to switch the tap off on the 1 September, they will have to continue with getting their turf wherever they can and even if that may involve breaking the law."

Additional reporting Tommy Meskill and Fergal O'Brien