The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, has proven very successful since first introduced in Dublin in 1990 and subsequently extended so that it now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. I am, therefore, disappointed that a number of coal firms have indicated they would legally challenge the decision of two former Ministers to extend the ban nationwide. Banning the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality and public health, particularly in built up areas. I am continuing to work with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air.
Pending the completion of this work, I can confirm that the current ban on bituminous coal will not be extended nationwide for the 2019/20 heating season. I also do not propose to extend the smoky coal ban to other individual towns in the meantime.
High levels of particulate matter arise from a number of sources, including the burning of smoky coal. In light of this, and of the fact that air pollution is now known to cause greater health effects at lower concentrations than was previously understood, I am committed to publishing the National Clean Air Strategy this year. This will provide the policy framework necessary to identify and promote integrated measures across Government to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives.