A number of local reps are calling for fireplaces and stoves to be installed in new homes.
Laois county councillors are adamant that heating people's homes should trump environmental concerns, by calling for all new houses built in the county to be equipped with solid fuel heating.
At the September meeting of Laois County Council, Councillor Willie Aird proposed a motion that the council call on Minister Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change & Communications to allow for the provision of solid fuel heating in the building of all new homes.
Cllr. Aird said he was not in 100% agreement with new rules and regulations about houses with chimneys and stoves.
"While we talk about stopping turf cutting and burning timber, I don't believe for one moment that this is going to happen entirely in our country. We're a different breed of people in Ireland. Here we have a situation now where gas has gone through the roof. What is going to happen to people during the coming winter? I don't know if there's anyone here who doesn't have a fireplace," said Cllr. Aird.
He said that people will never be cold if they have a fireplace, because they can always get a bag of turf or timber and at least be warm for one night.
"But if you have no money to go down and get money on your gas card, who do you turn to? You stay cold for the night. The whole thinking behind this is all completely wrong. Years ago, people would be hungry, but they'd always have a fire. Gas just won't be affordable. It's even noticeable now where lights are turned off completely at night in houses. It's gone back to like the ‘50s and the ‘60s. A whole lot of people in council houses will be affected. I'm not interested in what the Greens want. I know of people who are going to be in dire straits this winter," he said.
Supporting the motion, Cllr. PJ Kelly, who admitted he may be biased as he sells fuel, said that some older people do their cooking on a stove, so there are benefits as it saves the use of electricity.
Cllr. Barry Walsh said he "partially agreed and partially disagreed" with Cllr. Aird.
"There's nothing written down that you can't have a fireplace, it's just that new houses are built on an energy calculation, and if you put in a fireplace you have to put in 20 solar panels to compensate. It is a bit restrictive. Any new house should have plenty of insulation. Any house that doesn't have proper insulation should definitely have a source of solid fuel," said Cllr. Walsh.
Cllr. Seamus McDonald said people should not be compelled to burn gas that they can't afford.
"The cheapest way to heat any house is solid fuel," he said.
Cllr. Padraig Fleming said the simplest thing is to get an enclosed stove into a chimney which can heat the house all day.
"If you don't have heat, it's not good for families and young children," he said.
Cllr. Ollie Clooney said people should have choices.
"We moved too fast on this, because we haven't really a plan B to do away with turf and timber. We have to have a better plan in place," said Cllr. Clooney.
Cllr. John Joe Fennelly agreed with Cllr. Clooney that people should have a choice, and Cllr James Kelly said that about 15% of your income will go on trying to heat your house.
Speaking to Midlands 103, independent Cllr. James Kelly said while he believes the environment needs to be protected, more restrictions on people's energy use are unfair:
Cllr. Caroline Dwane Stanley said that Laois is classed as one of the designated coal regions where a lot of houses are dependent on solid fuels.
"The transition period getting people off solid fuel was supposed to take place over a period of ten years, and it happened literally in the space of two years. There lies the problem. I lived in O'Moore Place all my life and it was always solid fuel. A bucket of turf heated the house. We're going to end up with half our estates retrofitted and the other half that are privately owned won't be, because people won't have the €50,000 to retrofit their house," said Cllr. Dwane Stanley.