A TD has warned that any attempt to ban turf souvenirs as part of the clampdown on turf sales would turn the Government into a laughing stock.
Some producers have misgivings that their lines of stock could be “accidentally” banned by the looming prohibition on online sales of turf.
Fine Gael Junior Housing Minister Peter Burke has suggested the final regulations, to be signed into law in the autumn, will make it clear that only turf intended for burning as a fuel is covered by the ban.
There are myriad small producers of items made of turf – mostly small, decorative and intended as holiday souvenirs.
They include St Brigid’s crosses, replica Irish items and even turf maps of the country.
But eBay and other online outlets are also full of items such as an “Irish Turf Peat Incense and Burner” set, in a box that has been fashioned into a tiny replica of a traditional cottage, offering “the authentic smell of an Irish turf/peat fire”.
These could be hit by regulations that specify turf products for burning – along with the “refill sods” that are also offered online.
Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, who says he is aware of small-scale producers of turf souvenirs in a couple of counties, says the Government would be “laughed out of court” if it moved on little slices of the Auld Sod.
“There is an issue here, but in some ways I would love to see somebody taking a person to court for the internet sale of a turf souvenir that isn’t intended for burning,” the veteran politician told the Irish Independent.
“The purpose of the sale over the internet, which is going to be banned, would have to be for its burning or use as a fuel.
“There are some producers offering small amounts to burn to recreate cottage atmosphere, maybe, and we will have to look at the wording of the regulations.”
Mr Ó Cuív added: “There are little arts and crafts associated with turf.
“I know a guy who had a little china cottage (figurine) with real turf up against the gable as traditionally was seen.”
If any turf “incense” products were accidentally caught up in the online sales ban, there was still the question of a person or entity deciding on a prosecution, which would not be automatic.
“I think they would be literally laughed out of court if they tried to being a prosecution in such a case,” Mr Ó Cuív said.
“You would not really be causing any smoke or air pollution if you burnt any of these things, these bog products like a carved cross.”
The regulations could also make clear that online sales of turf items below a certain weight could be exempted.
One TD said: “There is also the ability to exempt exports, where there would be no pollution in Ireland at all, even if there was burning.
“You could confine it to internet sales made in Ireland where the recipient is also within the State.”
Mr Ó Cuív concluded that these souvenir sales should actually be encouraged.
“The overwhelming majority would be keeping the turf ornament as it is – not burning it. So it becomes a carbon trap,” he said.
He said the serious issue was that there were still people, mostly in local authority housing, who depended on the likes of turf and coal to heat their homes.
“The State needs to get its act together to eliminate such dependence,” he said.