The days of the mass harvesting of turf are over. This is best underscored by the fact that Bord na Móna has moved from its traditional brown peat business to become a leading and profitable champion of renewables. The Government's proposed outright ban on the sale of turf has caused real distress and frustration for rural communities. The proposal is unfair, unworkable and should not go ahead. The timing of the proposed ban could not be worse, as people are being hammered by the cost-of-living crisis that has seen energy bills go through the roof and that has put enormous pressure on people’s pockets. For many families in rural Ireland, turf is their one affordable way of heating their homes. Their only credible alternative is home heating oil, the price of which, as the Taoiseach knows, has doubled in the past year. Yet the Government has sat on its hands on this score. Nothing has been done to reduce these extortionate prices. In fact, the Government's actions will drive these costs higher.
It is therefore not hard to see why people in rural households are so frustrated because the Government is placing them between a rock and a hard place. It will ban the source of fuel on which they depend while, at the same time, refusing to tackle the soaring cost of the alternative. How is that fair? The ban on the sale of turf is a punishment for people who have no alternative way to heat their home. It will be particularly hard on older people and those who are on low incomes living in rural communities.
The Government's ineptitude in its handling of this proposed ban has been nothing short of astonishing. Deputies and Ministers are at sixes and sevens, sowing mass confusion and spreading mixed messages. Over the Easter break, the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister, Deputy Ryan, rode a merry-go-round of contradictions. The Minister, Deputy Ryan, said the ban was going ahead. The Tánaiste then said the ban was being paused. The Minister then responded by saying the ban is not being paused. The Government did not seem to know if it was coming or going. Then, on Sunday last, just to muddy the waters even further, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, said on the radio that the guidelines for the ban are only in draft. All the while, Government backbenchers - Deputies from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in rural areas - are falling over themselves to tell their constituents they do not support the proposed ban, with one going so far as to call the whole affair daft. They claim it is all the work of the Green Party and nothing to do with them. Those Deputies will have their golden opportunity this evening to show the people they represent that they are actually serious. They can put a stop to the ban on the sale of turf by voting for the Sinn Féin motion.
Tá an plean atá molta ag an Rialtas chun cosc a chur ar mhón a dhíol míchothram agus do-oibrithe.
Ní fhéadfadh an t-am a bheith níos measa, nuair atá oibrithe agus teaghlaigh ag streachailt le billí fuinnimh, atá ag ardú, a íoc. Cuireann an cosc seo pionós ar theaghlaigh thuaithe nach bhfuil aon bhealach eile acu a dtithe a théamh. Ní féidir leis an gcosc seo dul ar aghaidh.
What we need right now is clarity on what exactly has been agreed by Cabinet. Households who rely on turf to heat their homes need certainty as to what they face into. The certainty that the Taoiseach should and must give them is to make absolutely clear that this turf sale ban will go no further. I invite the Taoiseach to give that assurance to those households today.