The ban on the marketing, distribution and sale of smoky coal in Clonmel and its hinterland was denounced as impossible to enforce and a further cost on struggling families at South Tipperary Co. Council’s meeting this week.
South Tipperary Co. Council and Clonmel Borough Council have been enforcing the ban on smoky coal in the greater Clonmel area since August 1 to comply with new regulations under the Air Pollution Act introduced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan extending the smoky coal ban to Clonmel and three other large towns around the country.
But it was pointed out by Labour councillors Sean Lonergan and Bobby Fitzgerald that this ban was putting more financial pressure on poor families as the smokeless coal is dearer than the cheaper bituminous smoky coal.
Cllr Fitzgerald from Carrick-on-Suir said he was in a house last week where they were burning shoes because they couldn’t afford to buy coal. The people behind this smoky coal ban were “so far away from reality”.
He said heating and shelter were basic human rights but buying coal was now a luxury. “You are creating a situation where you are making the poor poorer,” he complained.
Cllr Fitzgerald and fellow Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan also claimed that the smoky coal ban was impossible to enforce as smoky coal is still allowed to be sold and purchased in other South Tipperary towns and villages.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan said it was “another half baked” idea as someone from Clonmel could travel to Carrick-on-Suir to buy ten tonnes of cheaper smoky coal and sell it to their neighbours.
“You know people are going to buy the cheapest coal. It’s impossible to monitor. Why are ye doing this. It’s putting pressure on people when budgets are already extremely tight,” she declared.
Independent Cllr Richie Molloy said it was another example of the country being over regulated. He didn’t believe there had ever been a problem with air quality in Clonmel and it was just a case of following an EU directive, which obliged the public to buy the dearer smokeless coal.
He called on the Council to write to the government calling for people in receipt of fuel allowance, who lived in areas subject to smoky coal bans, to receive extra sum.
Co. Council official Jimmy Harney said the Council was trying to do was implement the regulations signed by the Minister for Environment.
He pointed out that the Council’s authorised officers were enforcing the regulations and fines will be imposed on traders caught selling, marketing and distributing smoky coal in Clonmel and the areas around it covered by the ban and who failed to register with the EPA.
The smoky coal ban applies outside of Clonmel town to areas as far north as Mullaghnoney, Mylerstown, Rathduff Upper, Rathronan and Ballyvaughan, west as far as Jamestown, Rathkeevan and Loughtally, and east as far as Redmondstown and Twomilebridge.
To find out if your townland is included in the smoky coal ban log on to www.southtippcoco.ie or call 1800 20 26 27 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org