The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities. Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone. In light of its significant health and environmental benefits, it had been announced by a number of previous Ministers that the ban would be extended to the entire territory of the State. However, as the Deputy may be aware from recent press reports, a number of coal firms have indicated that they would legally challenge this decision.
I have discussed this issue with the Attorney General, my Department is now working to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air. However, pending the completion of this work I am aware of the need to provide clarity now to the public and to the trade to enable them adequately plan for purchases of stock for the 2019/20 heating season. I can confirm therefore that the current ban on bituminous coal will not be extended nationwide for the 2019/20 heating season.