A leading coal producer has hit out at a partial extension of the smoky coal ban claiming it represents a wasted opportunity to bring about real change.
Minister Richard Bruton has extended the ban to all towns with populations over 10,000 people but has stopped short of completely outlawing it nationwide.
But the Government will not be proceeding with a nationwide ban on smoky coal, on the basis that it carries a serious risk of illegality, unless peat, turf and wet wood are also included.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin accused the Government of using "spurious and irrelevant" arguments to stall an outright ban on smoky coal.
CPL Industries, which is one of the country's largest smokeless coal manufactures, said it was "deeply disappointing" that the fossil fuel has not been prohibited completely and said they had invested €20m in a new plant to provide alternative low smoke fuels in anticipation of such a ban.
"We now have a patchwork ban that will simply not work," said Tim Minett CEO of CPL Industries.
Most of the local authorities we have spoken with believe that a nationwide ban is the only effective way to deal with smoky coal. In some areas like Cork, the Minister has included three new towns and excluded nine others, which defies logic and practicality.
Mr Howlin accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of trying to use the issue for political gain and urged them to call off their political spat around smoky coal.
"I think there is some sort of a view in Fine Gael now that by mixing up the issues of turf burning that they can somehow draw back their rural credentials that have been so badly damaged and I think it is more a spat between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
"But it's a spat that should not be carried on at the expense of 1,000 lives in Ireland every year."
The party have put forward a motion calling for an immediate nationwide ban on smoky coal.
Mr Howlin said it was first acknowledged that the burning of smoky coal has significant health impacts as far back as the early '90s.
"There is an extraordinary argument now being made by the Government that somehow to complete a project that is 30 years in the doing is going to have an impact on the burning of other fuels like timber or peat, why in God's name would it be lawful and not an issue to ban the burning of coal in Wexford town but somehow impossible to ban exactly the same fuel 14 miles up the road? That is absolutely daft.
"I think there is something much more sinister behind the argument from Government, I just don't understand it, if people want to take a legal challenge they would have taken a legal challenge by now because all our major cities are already affected by this ban."
Calling on all parties to support the motion, Mr Howlin said: "I hope we don't hear any spurious, irrelevant arguments from Government."
- Cavan: Cavan Town
- Cork: Cobh, Midleton and Mallow
- Kerry: Killarney
- Longford: Longford Town
- Mayo: Castlebar, Ballina
- Meath: Ashbourne, Laytown-Bettystown
- Offaly: Tullamore
- Waterford: Tramore
- Wexford: Enniscorthy