Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Environmental Policy: Motion [Private Members]
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this Labour Party motion. There is a problem with quarries. West of Galway city and right through Connemara, we will soon be facing a situation where 80% of the land will be designated as not being allowed for quarrying. In 2007, quarry owners were asked to sign a compliance form. In 2012, there was a substitute consent. The minute they got that substitute consent, they could not quarry any more. From 2012 to 2015, legislation let them down. While it did not affect all of them, many were caught in a quagmire. Regardless of whether people want them, if we do not have quarries, we will not be able to build houses or roads. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment needs to wake up and put the legislation in place that will facilitate quarries.
Water quality is ferociously important. However, every report on water quality contains "farmers this" and "farmers that". It must be faced up to that raw sewage is going into every stream from small towns, large towns and cities. Whether we blame Jack or Jill or whoever, that is the problem. Until we give the money to Irish Water to put the required infrastructure in place, we will continue having this problem with water quality.
I have no problem with the smoky coal ban. The Minister should be upfront with the Dáil, however, and show the legal material from the Attorney General. All week I have heard this argument about wet timber. Just in case anyone does not know it, wet timber does not burn too well. All one will have is a bit of smoke and no fire. Timber, as well as turf, can only contain a maximum of 30% moisture if it is to burn properly. One also has to watch fuels being brought across the Border.
I am a turf cutting contractor. I am upfront about it. I have seen cases where, after a house has been insulated, there was a 20% reduction in fuel consumption. That is the advantage of actions that can be taken. Up to 650,000 people have oil burners, which involves importing more fuel. What are we doing about this? While we might have a bit of turf or an ash tree down the corner of a field, we do not have oil. Why are we not examining that?
Up to 23,000 homes do not have central heating. We must realise that fuel poverty exists. There are areas where, whether we like it or not, people are not as wealthy, both economically and socially, as those in other parts of the country. We are frightening these people with the language on this issue used in the Dáil and in the media. Ten years ago, the Government decided it would stop people and peg them out of their turbary rights. The Government, however, got a different answer when the people stood up for their rights. The Government needs to get the message once again. If it tries it on once more, the people of rural Ireland will give the Government a quick message because they are battle hardened. They will not give up on what they need and what they can only afford, namely €400 or €500 a year to heat their homes.