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Level of incompetency dealing with forestry issues amounts to national scandal – Fitzmaurice

The level of incompetency of those supposed to be dealing with the forestry licencing crisis in this country amounts to a national scandal, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.

Speaking on the matter, the representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency said: “The fact that mills around Ireland are being forced to import timber from abroad in order to keep the show on the road is mind boggling, given the amount of timber which is fit to cut around this island.

“There are thousands of licences currently submitted to the Forestry Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – across clear felling, thinning, roads and afforestation – with applicants yet to receive a decision.

“In the first three full weeks of this month, only 86 licences have been processed. Coillte felling licences amounted to 19, private felling added up to 37, road licences reached 18 and afforestation licences equalled a paltry 12.

“This is despite senior representatives within the Forest Service previously citing a target of processing 100 licences a week in order to reach their annual goal of 4,500.

“Given the amount of jobs involved in the sector at stake, if these results were produced in the private sector, there would be serious reforms and people would lose their jobs over it.

“Mills are struggling to source timber, foresters with big outlays on machinery are struggling to secure work in order to keep repayments paid and wages in their employees’ pockets.

“And yet the Forest Service seems to be pondering along at the same pace which has led us to this crisis situation in the first place.

“Senior representatives and Minister Pippa Hackett may point to hiring more ecologists and the establishment of Project Woodland, but where are the real results?

“Success has to be measured by the number of licences processed and the clearing of the backlog, which – at the moment – seems like a pipedream, if radical action is not taken.

“We are seven months into the year and only 2,722ha of afforestation has been licence – which is a long way from the 8,000ha target that we have failed to meet continuously in recent years.

“The forestry has been on its knees for months, struggling to survive as they waited for the drip feed of licences coming from the department.

“But if this trickle of licences continues, it will place the final nail in the coffin and countless people will lose their jobs.

“Serious questions will have to be answered at the next meeting of the Agriculture Committee by Minister Hackett and senior representatives,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

For further information contact Michael Fitzmaurice at 086-1914565