Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford James Browne has called on the Minister for Climate Action & Environment to explain why he is continuing to delay on a nationwide smoky coal ban.

He was responding to an announcement that the ban is to be extended to 13 towns, including Enniscorthy, from next September.

Deputy Browne said, “While I welcome this belated decision to extend the ban, it is disappointing that the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point. It also begs the question as to why if all the main towns and cities can be covered, the rest of the country cannot? It just doesn’t add up.

“I recently received a letter from the HSE’s Assistant National Director, who confirmed that poor air quality and its health-related impacts are estimated to cost €2bn per year in Ireland. That is a significant sum of money, which could be reduced if a nationwide ban was introduced.

“Fine Gael’s reluctance to extent the ban is baffling. The smoky coal ban in Dublin has been a success with “significant falls in respiratory problems and premature deaths following the introduction”. Why the government is failing to accept the medical evidence and is instead bowing to the coal merchants is something Minister Bruton needs to explain. It’s disgraceful.

“Today’s announcement is merely a tactic to try and appease the public concern around this issue. It doesn’t go far enough. If Fine Gael was serious about improving air quality and respiratory health, it would extend the ban right across the country”.