I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 237 together.
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.
Through legal correspondence, received in May 2018, a number of coal firms indicated that they would challenge the decision to extend the ban nationwide.
I am working with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air. I am also committed to bringing forward Ireland's first ever National Clean Air Strategy. The Strategy, which I intend to publish later this year, will provide the policy framework necessary to identify and promote integrated measures across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives.