Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that Minister Charlie McConalogue cannot wash his hands of the Coillte Joint Venture, which will see millions of euro in exchequer funding used to facilitate the purchase by British investors of thousands of hectares of Irish land.
He again called on the Minister to instruct Coillte to stall the venture until there has been adequate Dáil engagement and public engagement.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Minister McConalogue has stated that Coillte did not need his approval to proceed with this venture. But, Coillte is a state-owned company and Minister McConalogue is the shareholder.
“He can and he should instruct Coillte to stall the venture at least until there has been adequate Dáil engagement on the proposal and until all stakeholders have had an opportunity to have their concerns addressed.
“The Minister cannot wash his hands of this venture. I, and other opposition TDs raised concerns about the prospect of such a deal in the Dáil last November.
“In December, the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee engaged with Coillte on this issue and, despite the fact that Coillte representatives refused to answer questions on the specifics, it was clear to any observer that such a deal was imminent.
“Yet it appears from the Minister’s remarks this week that neither he nor his Junior Minister with responsibility for forestry made any effort to raise concerns with Coillte.
“This week the Minister says he now intends to meet Coillte. He should clarify what the purpose of that meeting is. It should be to put a stop to the venture.
“This debacle cannot be isolated from the absolute disaster in forestry overseen and compounded by this government. The venture is geared entirely towards circumventing EU rules which prohibit Coillte from receiving state subsidies for afforestation.
“The government, with the Green Party Minister having responsibility for forestry, has failed to come close to their own afforestation targets of 8,000 hectares per annum. In fact, they reached just 30% of that target in 2022.
“The failures of this government in this respect will have long standing implications for Ireland’s Climate Action obligations.
“What amounts to a massive sell-off of state lands to foreign private investors is the product of this government’s failure to deliver on forestry – and the price in the medium-to-long term will be borne by and in local economies, communities and the environment.
“Rather than acting as a commentator, Minister McConalogue must take ownership of the failures that he and Minister of State Hackett have overseen – they must engage with all stakeholders in a proactive manner, address the causes of farmer exodus from afforestation schemes and immediately put a stop to the concerning Coillte Joint Venture with Gresham House.”