The Irish Times view on smoky coal: still burning

Richard Bruton was wrong to postpone a total ban on bituminous coal

A file photograph from 1988 shows smog over Capel Street bridge in Dublin, with the Four Courts in the background. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

A file photograph from 1988 shows smog over Capel Street bridge in Dublin, with the Four Courts in the background. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

If the Government is to have any credibility in terms of public health protection and action to combat global warming, it must follow through on its commitment to introduce a State-wide ban on smoky coal. The major cities and towns are already covered by such a restriction but a threat of legal action by coal merchants caused Minister for Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton to postpone the introduction of a total ban on bituminous coal earlier this year.

The protection of public health should be the primary consideration in this instance and evidence of the damage caused to individuals by the ingestion of particulate matter arising from the burning of smoky coal is indisputable. It has been estimated that diseases caused by such air pollution are responsible for between 1,000 and 1,500 deaths a year in Ireland.

Bruton deferred the total ban on smoky coal in spite of official reports concerning the likely health consequences. His decision cannot be allowed to stand

Many of those deaths occur in small villages and towns that have poorer quality air than their neighbouring cities. At some locations, such as Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, the topography of the town ensures that safe air quality standards set by the World Health Organisation are frequently breached.

It is now 29 years since a ban was imposed on smoky coal in Dublin. That decision led to an immediate improvement in air quality and public health. The ban was later extended to Cork and other major cities and towns. The latest research has shown that air quality in those towns not included in the ban is inferior to that in larger settlements, in spite of differing population and traffic densities.

The last government announced it would impose a total ban on smoky coal. After years of dithering, it was decided that action would be taken before next winter. Fuel merchants were given time to run down their stocks of dirty coal and to import more expensive, smokeless fuel. Two months ago, Bruton deferred such action in spite of official reports concerning the likely health consequences. His decision cannot be allowed to stand.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.