Enniscorthy-based TD James Browne has slammed the Government for refusing to introduce a nationwide ban on smoky coal.
Deputy Browne, who raised the matter with Minister Bruton in the Dáil said; “A ban on smoky coal was introduced in Dublin in 1990 and was gradually extended to urban areas. Now we have a situation where air pollution is worse in our rural towns than in our cities. This has a terrible effect on people’s health and is leading to increases in asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
“Why is the health and quality of life of people living in Enniscorthy, Gorey or New Ross less important to the Government than those living in our cities? It is essentially treating people living in rural areas as second-class citizens.
“The last two Fine Gael-led governments promised to introduce a nationwide smoky coal ban. Minister Bruton, seemingly against all previous advice and analysis, is the only government Minister to have now decided to reject an extension of the ban.
“He claims there are threats of legal challenge from certain companies. Is the government’s environmental policy being guided by weak legal threats or by the public health of Irish citizens?
“There is no safe level of air pollution. We need State leadership and a focus on the huge health and environmental rewards of a nationwide ban – Fine Gael needs to learn from Fianna Fáil’s record when it faced down short-term opposition from some quarters and introduced the smoking ban and the plastic bag levy.
“People in Enniscorthy, Gorey and New Ross have no choice over the air they breathe. The sooner the Minister finds the courage to take on the industry the better,” he concluded.