Deputy Martin Browne with Imelda Walsh, North Tipperary IFA chair; Tim Cullinan, IFA president, and Padraig Stapleton, North Tipperary IFA forestry chair, at the protest
Farmers with forestry have dismissed as “spin” the comments made by Ministers following IFA’s protest on the forest licence crisis last week, according to IFA president Tim Cullinan.
The Toomevara farmer said that it was “utterly disingenuous” of both Minister McConalogue and Junior Minister Hackett to say they had some good news for farmers.
“They told us nothing new. We protested because of the deep frustration over Government inaction. We need emergency legislation to give farmers licences for forest roads and thinning operations,” he said.
IFA farm forestry chairman Vincent Nally said there were over 6,000 licences in the backlog, with farmers waiting in excess of two years to get a licence to thin or manage their forests.
“There is no good news in this. We need targets and we need a guarantee from both Ministers that the backlog will be cleared by the end of the year,” he said.
“Until we get this guarantee, farmers will maintain the campaign and we will escalate our action,” he said.
Mr Nally said that comments from the Ministers highlighted the disconnect between the Government and forest owners.
“Our forests are being devalued while we wait for the Government to commission review after review. We have had enough. The spin being put out to deflect from the crisis in the sector will not wash with farmers,” he said.
He said comparing licence output to 2020, one of the worst years since farmers started planting, did not inspire much confidence for the future of forestry in Ireland.
The Department’s dashboard shows that only 12 licences were issued to private forest owners up to last week (five afforestation, six forest roads and 1 felling licences). If this rate of approval continues for a month would only see 50 licences issue to private owners.
Meanwhile, Tipperary TD Martin Browne met members of Tipperary IFA who were demonstrating outside the Convention Centre in Dublin about how foresters were being let down through what he said was a malfunctioning licensing system.
“I have continued to raise this issue, and a range of others at the Agriculture Committee and in the Dáil,” he said.
The Cashel TD said that from the discussions that he had with Junior Minister Pippa Hackett, and with officials from the Department, he had formed the view that in many ways, they had been avoiding the real issues that were facing workers in this sector on a daily basis.
“Very lengthy licensing backlogs, an overly bureaucratic system, Ash Dieback and a very poor Ash Dieback (RUS) scheme are among the issues that need immediate attention,” said the Sinn Féin TD.
He said that while some moves had been made to deal with the licensing system, reform was moving too slowly, and the forestry sector had to continue navigating an overly bureaucratic and poorly functioning system.
“Our foresters have been experiencing these problems for years and the industry is now in crisis,” he said.
He pointed out that these obstacles will also affect the Government’s own commitments in the Climate Action Plan to plant an additional 8000 hectares per year - a target that will be unachievable given the problems the sector faces.
Deputy Browne said that he will continue to pressure Ministers McConalogue and Deputy Hackett to listen to and deliver upon the needs of the industry which had so much to offer in terms of produce, jobs and forestry’s contribution to climate action measures.
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