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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 20 Sep 2022

Vol. 1026 No. 3

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Energy Prices

Darren O'Rourke


54. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to reduce the price of electricity and energy for households and businesses over the coming months; if he has examined introducing a price cap on electricity in Ireland or introducing other market reforms or interventions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45782/22]

I ask the Minister his plans to reduce the price of electricity and energy for households and businesses over the coming months, if he has examined introducing a price cap on electricity in Ireland or introducing other market reforms or interventions, given the market is broken, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The unprecedented increase and volatility in international wholesale gas market prices has continued as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This, in turn, has led to increases in energy bills, given the link between the wholesale price of gas and electricity prices. The Government has already put a €24 billion package of measures in place and further measures are being considered for budget 2023. Under the electricity costs emergency benefit scheme, we made a payment of €176.22 to almost 2.2 million domestic electricity accounts. The scheme was part of a package of measures which included further increases in the fuel allowance, seeing it increase from €735 in 2020 to €1,139, and a reduction in VAT on electricity bills from 13.5% to 9%. Under responses 6 and 7 of the national energy security framework, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, announced enhanced consumer protection measures to be implemented by electricity and gas providers ahead of the coming winter.

Earlier this year, the Government increased the grant rates significantly to make it easier and more affordable for homeowners to undertake home energy upgrades. In particular, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, is being supported to focus on free energy upgrades for those at greatest risk of energy poverty. As we debated earlier, these schemes are seeing significant demand increases. Business supports are also available to support businesses to improve energy efficiency.

Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity and gas markets is statutorily a matter for CRU. It ceased price setting for electricity and gas in 2011 and 2014, respectively. The setting of prices is a commercial, competitive matter for individual supply companies.

Any major interference or change in the market must be carefully considered and that is what is being done now by the EU. We are very supportive of that and we are working with the EU on it. We are also very supportive of the emergency measures considered at the European Energy Council on 9 September, including a change in the market in order that we get a return from the inframarginal pricing and a solidarity levy from fossil fuel producers. Those measures are the most important and immediate ways in which we can protect the Irish people.

It is quite incredible that we have a situation whereby the Minister acknowledges the measures to which he referred are needed at this point in time but, in effect, he and the Government have been a barrier to those types of progressive reforms at a European level. Whatever the situation was in October 2021, I think it was clear at that stage, given the European toolbox had been published a number of weeks earlier, that reforms were needed. As recently as June this year, the Minister confirmed to my colleague, Deputy Conway-Walsh, that he did not support market reforms. The Iberian countries of Portugal and Spain moved for the decoupling and a form of windfall tax on non-gas forms of electricity. Why has the Government resisted those changes for so long and does the Minister acknowledge it was a mistake to do so?

No, I do not. The reason we are following the measures we are is that I think the alternative presented by Sinn Féin would be less progressive. Its proposal for a cap on electricity prices seems to be very similar to what the Tory Party in the UK is proposing. It would give a direct benefit to the energy companies, which I do not think is what we need to do at this time.

What has the Minister been doing for the past year?

As I understand the proposal by the Deputy's party, it would benefit the wealthiest households that use the most energy. Putting a cap in would enable those households to keep consuming energy in a way that would benefit them more than it would poorer households. I do not believe the alternative proposals being presented would give a better outcome. They are full of potential for eventual, knock-on consequences that would be deeply damaging to the State. We can agree or disagree on that but it is my assessment of the alternative proposals by the Deputy's party. I prefer the measures proposed by the European Commission, which we can more immediately apply, and the ones proposed by the Government.

The Minister is right. If I were him, I would not answer the question I was asked. I would not talk about how I and my Government stood in the way of progressive measures and proposals at a European level to address the fact gas is driving prices and this is, in essence, playing into the hands of Putin. Gas is driving the price of electricity. The Government and the Minister have resisted these progressive moves for close on a year at this stage. Consumers in Spain have benefited to the tune of €1.4 billion in a couple of months because their Government took progressive and aggressive action to deal with that. Now, at the eleventh hour, the Minister is eventually making a massive U-turn on behalf of the Government. It is absolutely incredible. Will he answer the question as to why he opposed those progressive measures almost 12 months ago?

There is no U-turn. I work very closely with the Spanish Minister and find we agree on a lot. I do not believe the measures introduced in Spain would work well here and that is why I prefer the approach we are taking. There were knock-on consequences in Spain, including a massive transfer of exports of energy to France, from which the latter benefited. There would potentially be the same consequences here. We could see a major transfer of wealth from Ireland to Britain if we adopt the exact same measures. Different markets have different circumstances but that was my assessment of it. If the Deputy's party is proposing we take the approach of a cap-----

We are proposing a cap and a windfall tax.

-----I again make the point that this would benefit the wealthiest households and the energy industries. I do not think that is what we need to do at this time.

The Minister's proposals will benefit people with holiday homes.

Energy Policy

Bríd Smith


55. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the position on the building of a liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminal; if it will be privately built or State-built; the way such a facility can be compatible with the climate objectives of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45986/22]

Will the Acting Chairman clarify how much time I have?

The Deputy has 30 seconds to put the question, the Minister will have two minutes to respond, after which the Deputy will have one minute, the Minister another minute and the Deputy an additional minute.

Okay. We need some clarity on the issue I am raising. There is a jarring discrepancy between the media coverage of the energy review yesterday and the analysis from some NGOs and columnists today. Will the Minister clarify whether there will be an LNG terminal in this country, either privately built or State-owned? The substantial question I ask him to answer is how such a facility will be compatible with the climate objectives of the State.

The Deputy put climate at the centre of her question. I asked the consultants, CEPA, to look forward at the security situation of both our electricity grids and gas supplies and to look at options. In my mind, it benefits us to have a storage capability in gas and to look at that specific aspect of it. We wanted to rule out options that would not help us to meet our climate targets. That is why certain options are now proposed to go to public consultation, which we are doing. Following that, they will be implemented as part of the energy security strategy we are following. I believe that leads us towards not having a commercial LNG facility. It still opens the possibility of a storage facility, whether floating or onshore, but it will be a strategic storage, operated to give us security in times when the gas might not be available. That is a very unlikely scenario but we have to cover every eventuality. As we have discussed in regard to the previous question, one of the concerns I have about some of the alternative approaches is that they would see a significant increase in emissions.

Yes, climate change is at the centre of our approach as well as energy security policy needs in terms of the options that were considered in the consultant's report. We are now putting the report out to open public consultation in order to hear every view, including that of the Deputy's party. We will then act on the consultation by implementing the measures that we see as best fitting Irish needs. We must have something that is fit for an energy future in which we are likely to convert our renewable offshore wind power into hydrogen that can be stored and transmitted. Any new storage facility must be designed and built in a way that meets this need. It also goes back to the debate we have had in this House for many years. We do not want to be seen as a country or be part of a world in which there is a continued expansion of fracked gas in a way that is both bad for the countries in which it is initially produced and that risks the future health and security of everyone on this planet. The report was well received yesterday and I look forward to the public consultation on it.

Friends of the Earth has said the expert review "signals the death knell of Shannon LNG". Is the Minister confirming or denying that? There is a jarring discrepancy on this point and, apart from that, there is a discrepancy of views within the Government. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, recently said: "The time for discussion is over. We need to build an LNG as soon as possible." Either he has not read the review or the Minister and I are misinterpreting it. Like other Deputies, the Minister of State wants an end to what he calls the philosophical discussion around what he probably sees as silly things like the climate crisis. We do not have clarity on this. There has been and continues to be a significant campaign across this House by Deputies, including Independents, members of Fine Gael, etc., and even Ministers to push for a New Fortress Energy LNG terminal, get it over the line and to forget about climate chaos or the Paris treaty. It is part of a wider campaign launched by the fossil fuel industry to lock the planet into a fossil fuelled future. Will the Minister try again to clarify this matter?

The report is very clear that such a commercial LNG facility was not considered as an option to go to public consultation and be progressed. Friends of the Earth is correct in its reading - it is a very simple reading, in my mind - of the report. There is a range of strategic reasons behind that. From my perspective, first, there is real risk in following such an approach. It would be very good for the developer but it would not be good for our carbon budget. On that criterion alone, it should not be pursued. Second, what we were looking for in this report was to make sure we have a system that gives us energy security, which a commercial facility would not necessarily do. We would have to contract it separately. Third, we have shared the perspective that we could not guarantee the energy produced by such a facility would come from a non-fracked gas source.

For a variety of strategic reasons, therefore, including climate, energy security and the environment, it was not included as one of the options to be pursued.

New Fortress Energy has set up the Shannon LNG Limited company and paid Kerry County Council more than €4 million as a development contribution for widening the road to Tarbert, €2 million of which was paid even before the planning permission application was lodged. The question then is whether Kerry County Council now owes this money and whether it is liable to pay it back to New Fortress Energy or whether it has just been gifted to the council and those whom it contracts. I would like to share the optimistic interpretation that the Shannon LNG terminal is dead, but we cannot be sure this is the case and that this report and the Government's interpretation of the public consultation process will not leave the door open. We are also still awaiting the decision of An Bord Pleanála.

On the energy issue and how much we need, the Minister and this Government is allowing more and more data centres to connect to the national grid. We learned from the representatives of the CRU this morning that Ireland is an outlier in respect of the increase in its energy demand across the EU 27. That was conveyed to us in a letter. Our energy demand has jumped 9% in five years while that in the other EU countries has flattened out or decreased. Therefore, there is a problem with the way we approach the use of energy and the alternative of bringing in gas supplies, which would lock us into a fossil fuel future.

When reading the CEPA report, which is comprehensive, it is important to realise it recognises we need a range of different options for energy security. We need not just gas storage but also other technologies, such as pumped storage and battery storage. The report also recognises that further interconnection, especially in respect of our electricity markets, will give us greater stability and security in this regard. Equally, as Deputy Smith said, it also recognises that we must be clever in how we manage demand. Included in that facet is managing the demand for data centres. We will need new data centres. It makes sense for us to be good as a place where it is possible to store and manage data safely. This is one of the main industries that provides many of the jobs and much of the income and wealth for us. We need that. We must do it, however, in a way that supports the electricity grid and gives us energy security while not resulting in a rise in climate emissions. This is what the Government has set out. Last September, the CRU and, subsequently, the Government, with EirGrid support, detailed how it is possible to design a system that is more energy secure and low carbon rather than just devising a demand-led solution take would not take those factors into account. This is what we will do when it comes to the management of data centres.

It is unsustainable.

Energy Conservation

Darren O'Rourke


56. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of retrofits completed under the warmer homes scheme and, separately, under the one-stop shop service; the measures he will take to increase the roll-out and to better target supports to those most in need; if he agrees a dedicated retrofit scheme aimed at households that rely on solid fuels for heating is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45783/22]

What are the number of retrofits completed under the warmer homes scheme and, separately, under the one-stop shop service? What are the measures the Minister will take to increase the roll-out and to better target supports to those most in need? Does he agree a dedicated retrofit scheme aimed at households that rely on solid fuels for heating is needed, and will he will make a statement on the matter?

The Government allocated €244 million to fund the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, residential, community and solar PV schemes this year. This budget enabled the introduction of a range of new measures to make it easier and more affordable for homeowners to undertake energy upgrades as well as to better target supports for those most in need. Data from the SEAI show that since the launch of the new measures in February, demand across the retrofit schemes has been exceptionally high. As of the end of last month, more than 30,000 applications for support had been received by the SEAI. This is more than double the number received during the same period last year. This demand is translating into delivery, with 3,400 home energy upgrades having been completed with support from across the range of schemes. This is up 70% when compared with the same period last year.

Approximately 2,800 of these completions were free energy upgrades provided to households at risk of energy poverty. This is almost three times the number of free upgrades provided in the same period last year. This activity was funded through an allocation of €118 million for SEAI energy poverty schemes. Under the one-stop shop service, 330 homes had been completed to the end of August. Demand for the national home energy upgrade scheme, which underpins the one-stop shop service, is high. The latest SEAI forecast indicates that approximately 900 homes will be completed under the scheme this year, with a strong pipeline of work in place as we move into 2023. Decisions concerning retrofit supports for next year are being considered as part of the Estimates process.

The Deputy will know, however, that one of the great things about the system we have in this country is that we know that for the next ten years we have €5 billion coming in to help the poorest and to protect the most vulnerable. It will be coming from the carbon tax and will be used to protect those who are vulnerable. That €5 billion is an important and clear signal that this is where we are going for the next decade.

About €5 billion will come in the years 2028, 2029 and 2030. A significant problem with the funding model is that it is back-loaded to this degree.

On those figures from the Minister, and we had them earlier from the Minister of State as well, how many of these completions have been done to a B2 or B2-equivalent standard? How many of them have been done to that standard simply with the addition of solar PV? Does the Minister have those figures? I ask this because it is important in respect of the difference these retrofits are making. I refer to the start and end points. Will the Minister change the criteria for the individual grants, increase them to 100% and front-load the grant money to ensure it is spent as quickly and as efficiently as possible?

Starting with the warmer homes energy aspect, it is not a case where we are just getting above the present standard and just going from a C rating to a B2. We are specifically targeting those houses that most need improvement, namely, those built before 1993. They must also have a present building energy rating, BER, of E, F or G. Again, regarding how the scheme has changed, we have gone from where it might have typically involved a grant of €1,000 or €2,000 to a situation now where the average spending this year, and I am going on memory, is €18,000. Therefore, it is deep retrofitting. This is important. Also important is the way we have changed the scheme to stipulate that even people who have availed of this scheme before are not precluded from applying again. Equally, we have also changed the criteria for those with disabilities. We broadened and strengthened this scheme in a range of ways.

I did not quite understand the second part of the Deputy's question. Was he suggesting that all the grants for all houses would be set at 100%? That would have real consequences in respect of the social justice aspect of this initiative.

I refer to being in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC. For attic insulation and cavity walls-----

The Minister's time has elapsed, so the Deputy might as well continue with his questions.

The recommendation from the CCAC, and others, including Friends of the Earth, I think, relates to a problem existing with accessing the small and flexible grants for individual works, such as attic and cavity wall insulation. There are financial barriers in this regard. Additionally, these are projects that can be rolled out very quickly, between now and the end of the year, to provide insulation for people's homes. The recommendation is there. For those who want to see these projects run as efficiently as possible, I refer to these grants being set at 100% instead of 80% and, importantly, their being front-loaded. People would get this funding in the same way as they would the housing adaptation grant, after which they would then get the works done, instead of them having to go out and source the money in the first place and then be paid back after the works have been completed. This is about flexibility and speed.

I appreciate Deputy O'Rourke's argument, but I must say it runs directly contrary to what Deputy O'Reilly from Sinn Féin said only half an hour or 20 minutes ago.

No, it does not.

She accused us of not being on the same page because we were giving grants to houses that could afford-----

She did not. That is not the case.

No, that is not the case.

We will take the Minister's-----

The record will show that is exactly what she said.

She was having a cut at us for providing grants for better-off houses. It cannot be both ways. Do we agree with the position of Deputy O'Reilly or that of Deputy O'Rourke? My own-----

The Sinn Féin position is in the motion the Minister just agreed to.

Deputy O'Reilly was saying we should not be giving any grants-----

I refer to €25,000 for wealthy people-----

What the Deputy is saying is we should give 100% grants. I believe this-----

A pensioner couple will get €1,500-----

I will tell-----

-----to get their attic insulated.

Please let the Minister answer the question.

He is not answering the question.

What we agree on is this. This 80% grant or the investment in cavity insulation is something 500,000 houses could benefit from and it is the best and most immediate thing any household can do. It will bring a 25% cut in bills and a payback time of less than a year. As I said in my earlier contribution, banks, credit unions and others will lend for this sort of one-year investment.

I thank the Minister. He is out of time on this question.

If I was to go up to a 100% grant, I fear Deputy O'Reilly would come back and say I was helping the wealthy and not doing the right thing-----

It is for pensioners. That is who I am talking about.

-----as she said only half an hour ago.

Energy Prices

Peter Fitzpatrick


57. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the reason household electricity bills in Ireland are more expensive than the European average; his plans to address electricity costs and energy supply challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46059/22]

We all know that the Irish people are suffering hard. Not a month passes that the prices are not going up, and they are only going one way. I have been asked by my constituents to ask the Minister a couple of questions. First of all, I want to know what is the reason that the household electricity bills in Ireland are more expensive than the European average and what are the Minister's plans to address the electricity costs and energy supply challenges. This is serious and I ask the Minister to give decent answers, not what is written in front of him but what exactly is happening.

I will read out some of the response because it has been thought through.

The first message is that the current high prices are caused by the war in Ukraine. I hope that is agreed by everyone in this House. Failure to understand that is really challenging because I do not see any other explanation.

We face particular challenges because we are a price taker on international markets and Irish electricity and gas prices have historically been affected by long-standing drivers such as geographical isolation, dispersed population, fossil fuel dependency and small market scale.

The Government is acutely aware of the impact on consumers of these high electricity and gas prices and introduced last year, as I stated earlier, a €2.4 billion package. We will go further this year in budget 2023 to protect our people.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, as I said earlier, has also announced enhanced consumer protection measures to be implemented by electricity and gas providers ahead of the coming winter. That will provide additional protections from disconnections and other safeguards for customers.

The CRU, as I stated in an earlier contribution, is responsible for electricity regulation. It ceased price setting for electricity and gas in 2011 and 2014, respectively. Therefore, the setting of prices in that regard is a commercial matter for individual supply companies. It also has statutory responsibility to ensure security of supply and has the duty to monitor electricity supplies and to make sure measures are in place as considered necessary to protect that security of supply. The CRU, assisted by EirGrid and my Department, has a programme of demand and supply-side actions under way to ensure the security of our electricity supply over the coming winters.

Our long-term priority and the best long-term approach for Ireland is to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, expanding interconnection with European and neighbouring markets and deepening internal market integration.

The Minister stated that the price is because of the war. How come all these energy companies are making such high profits? Is that because of the war?

How come it always seems to benefit the companies rather than the consumer? For example, today Deputies were talking about standing charges and the Minister stated that the companies have to justify these standing charges. However, the Minister can stop them putting up these standing charges.

There is an amount of people coming to me in my constituency office about tariffs and how they are being advised every 12 months to change to a different company. Can the Minister not force these energy companies to give their best prices on tariffs from day one?

These are simple issues. My siblings keep telling me to change and I will get the standing charge, this, that and the other.

This is a serious situation and the Minister has the power. This is somewhere we can cut prices. I will not use the word "waffling", but the Minister has an opportunity to do something here. Will he please do something to reduce the prices to the consumer?

Those high profits and high prices are because the price of gas is ten times its historical average.

What about the tariffs?

If I can answer the Deputy's question as to what to do about those profits, certain generators who are not generating with gas will get a supernormal profit because the market price is way above their production price cost. We are working with the European Union, which is the appropriate way to do it. We address this as a wartime measure in response to what the Russian Government is doing by taking some of that excess profit in an intermarginal price system and bringing that back to the public. That is not agreed yet. We have to go to Brussels on 30 September to address that. It is one of the ways, along with the other measures we will introduce in the budget, which will help bring down the prices or help shield consumers from the worst elements of this energy price crisis. There are other measures in social welfare, energy credits and in business supports. They will be set out in the budget.

The Minister has me breathless here. I asked him simple questions. The Minister has an opportunity to reduce the price to the consumer and he has been doing absolutely nothing. I will be honest with the Minister. I would hate to see him as CEO of a company because if he were CEO of a company, he would be sacked straightaway. The Minister will not even have a look at simple wee things I am asking him to do.

The Minister stated the companies have to justify this and justify that. The Minister says we are part of the EU. If we are part of the EU, how come our prices are above the EU average? Another Deputy mentioned Spain and the Minister responded with the EU. The Minister keeps mentioning the EU. If the EU so good to us, why does it not help us?

What can the Minister do about VAT? Will VAT continue they way it is? The Government reduced it from 13.5% to 9% in May and it is up at the end of October.

People want a bit of help here at present. If we are that good with the EU, the Minister should get on to the EU and ask how come we in Ireland are paying above the average prices. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I come from a business background. God forgive me, when I had my company going I put my best price forward. These companies should deal with the tariff prices instead of messing around. We are in different times. People are really bleeding. People are looking for help. It is important that these companies, the Government and we all work together.

Please God, this will only happen for maybe one or two years, but we need the Minister. The Minister is our CEO and we need him to do this right.

To answer the Deputy's question as to why we are above the other European countries in price levels, it is because we are so dependant on fossil fuels. Other than the Corrib gas field, we do not have any of those fossil fuels. We have to import them all. It is because we have the most dispersed population in Europe and the price of getting electricity and getting gas and getting other energy to a dispersed population is much more expensive than to a concentrated one. That is a reality. Lastly, it is because of the smaller scale and geographic isolation of our markets.

The answer to that is for us to develop our own fuels where we have comparative competitive advantage, particularly in wind. I hope - we will see whether it happens - the first of those offshore wind farms off the coast of Louth will proceed. If we are looking to protect our households, that sort of approach, where we start relying on our own resources not being held to ransom by external governments, is where we can go.

Going back to the debate we had earlier, we help our people by insulating and making sure that our dispersed houses are warm by design and that we do not have to spend so much. That is the answer that we have to follow. That is the path that brings us cheaper energy prices.

EU Regulations

Michael Fitzmaurice


58. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will oppose the proposed European Union regulation on land and peat restoration with reference to the biodiversity strategy and climate strategy as part of the European Union Council of Ministers, given that the consequences for Irish farming will be detrimental if this regulation is left in its present form (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45814/22]

This question concerns COM (2022) 304, to ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will oppose the proposed European Union regulation on land and peat restoration with reference to the biodiversity strategy and climate strategy as part of the European Union Council of Ministers, given that the consequences for Irish farming will be detrimental if this regulation is left in its present form.

The EU nature restoration law, as proposed, seeks to repair European habitats that are in poor condition and bring back nature to all ecosystems. The aim is for nature restoration measures to apply to a proportion of the EU's land and sea areas by 2030 and to eventually extend these measures to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. In addition, there are proposals from the EU Commission to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides and a new soil health law to significantly improve the state of soils and protect soils on the same legal basis as air and water. In combination, it is envisaged that these flagship legislative proposal will help ensure the sustainability, resilience and security of food supply in the EU.

While the proposed EU nature restoration law is being negotiated there are measures, such as a voluntary eco-scheme, set out in the CAP strategic plan. It is anticipated that it will be a key action in the delivery objectives of the nature restoration law. The proposed EU nature restoration law will have implications for all land users in Ireland. These will be taken into consideration as part of the second phase of the land use review, due for completion in 18 months' time.

The national implementation of the proposed EU nature restoration law will require a whole-of-government approach, and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage who are leading on this issue.

To answer, if I can, the question as to whether I will oppose the proposed Union regulation, I met the Commissioner, Mr. Sinkevičius, when I visited Brussels the week before last and we discussed this very issue. I am supportive of what he and the Commission are looking to do. I believe it will be to the benefit of nature restoration in Ireland but also to the development of rural Ireland and to our cities.

Part of the plan and the proposals is that we green our cities as well as our country areas. This law and the measures that would help deliver that have a real, long-term benefit for our people. As a result, I said to Commissioner Sinkevičius that I would be supportive of his work.

If the Minister supports the regulation in its present form, he will be a traitor to the people in rural Ireland. That is the fact. What has been proposed would make Cromwell blush when compared with what he tried to do to Ireland. The Minister used the word "voluntary". This is bringing into law a regulation that will affect people with land containing peaty soils. The Minister should go down to Kerry, where most of the cows for the dairy sector are reared, to the west, to the north west and out to the midlands, where land has been reclaimed for years and where families make a living. Whoever will be in government can listen to these words very carefully. Whether the Government signs off on this, whether it supports it with the EU or whether it wants to be a lackey for the EU, we in rural Ireland will stand against this and fight it. No EU diktat and no Government Minister in Dublin will decide our private property rights, decide how we will farm our land or take us off land that we have drained, looked after and reared families on down through the years.

I was down in Kerry last week, as it happens.

The Minister could have a look at Listowel. Where are the cows reared around Listowel?

I was in west Clare the previous weekend.

Yes, and where are the cows?

I will be heading back out west again this weekend. One thing I believe to be absolutely true is that it is in all our interests to stop the destruction of the natural world which has occurred over the past 50 or 60 years - within our lifetimes.

I am talking about land that is reclaimed, that cattle are on.

We are not disconnected from the natural systems. If we lose them, we will not be able to restore them easily. We need to protect our water, our soil, our air quality and our land and the ecosystems within them. That is good in the long run for farming, forestry, tourism and so many other industries that bring wealth and prosperity to our country. We will work collaboratively and collectively on that. Obviously, it will not work if it is someone telling someone else what to do and how.

And what does the regulation do?

However, ignoring the biodiversity crisis and ignoring the destruction and loss of the natural world that has occurred in the past 50 years serves no one's interests. We have to look forward, restore nature and ensure that we maintain our prosperity in that manner.

The Minister talked about forestry. It is a good job there might be someone in the EU who will stand up for their citizens. Sweden and Finland are to oppose the regulation, just so the Minister knows. He talks about the past 50 years. Over the past 50 years the EU has given grants to these farmers to shore their land and to make a living on marginal farms. Is the Minister the person who is going to support an EU diktat from unelected representatives trying to bring in a regulation? He talked about working with people. A regulation does not work with people. A regulation seeks to bring something into law. This regulation will not be accepted, just so the Minister knows. He is hearing it loud and clear here. From the top of Donegal to the bottom of Kerry and out as far as Cork and the midlands, he will destroy family farms if, by 2050, the plan is that the Government will rewet the ground that these farmers have spent years trying to farm all their life. The regulation will not be accepted, whoever is in government. I am telling the Minister that clearly.

It will be accepted if we provide an income-----

It will not be accepted.

We will hear the Minister's answer.

If I may make my point, it will be accepted if we can, in restoring nature, provide an income-----

Do not talk bullshit.

-----to a new generation of farmers, foresters and people to look after the natural world. That will be a far more secure, a far more profitable and a far more prosperous future.

Stop, will you? For Jesus's sake, will you just leave it?

That is absolutely achievable. It will not work-----

So you are going to tell families, "Forget about farming. Leave the area."

Do you want to have it so that Leinster and Munster will have the farming and the rest will not?

I ask you to hear the Minister's response, Deputy Fitzmaurice.

I am sick of listening to him.

I have just as much an interest in the prosperity and the future of the Irish family farm-----

You want to rewet all their land.

Thank you, Deputy Fitzmaurice.

That is absolutely connected to protection and management of that land.

The sooner we have an election and have the likes of you gone, the better.

We will need people, young and old, who see that the care of their environment and of their local area is central to what they do. That aspiration and that instinct belongs to everyone. It does not belong to any single party one way or the other, but we will not-----

We are a sovereign people who have property rights and we will protect them. We have done it before and we will do it again.

We have to work now to find a mechanism whereby we can do this in a way-----

There will be no mechanism of flooding people's land.

-----that guarantees the future of the family farm, and that is what we will work towards with the European Union.

The European Union is no friend of ours.