Coillte harvesting
rights sale doubt

Emmett Stagg
THE sale of harvesting rights in Coillte may not go ahead, Kildare North TD, Emmet Stagg, said this week.

THE sale of harvesting rights in Coillte may not go ahead, Kildare North TD, Emmet Stagg, said this week.

After a Dail debate on 26 February, Deputy Stagg said the future of Donadea Forest Park would be protected if the sale of harvesting right of Coillte forests did not go ahead.

Minister Brendan Howlin told the Dail the sale would only go ahead if it made economic and strategic sense.

Following a Dail bebate on the proposed sale on 26 February and particularly given the “qualified nature” of Minister Howlin’s speech, Deputy Emmet Stagg said that he was now satisfied that it was not possible for the many strictures and conditions referred to by the Minister to be met and that it was now most unlikely that the proposed sale would go ahead.

Deputy Stagg complimented campaigners against the sale.

He said that in addition to protecting the State’s interest in our forests he was confident of the future of Donadea Forest Park and its amenity value to the people... given that it was now most unlikely that the proposed sale would go ahead.

In the Dail, Deputy Stagg said there was evidence the sale would “cost the State money rather than save it” and that that there is a massive social dividend from the availability of the woodlands and hillside walks to the public.

“There is a genuine fear that this social dividend would be greatly reduced if the sale of harvesting rights to the private sector for 80 years was to go ahead.”

He asked that when this matter is reviewed, both the economic and social consequences are taken into account.

Minister Brendan Howlin said any transactions can be structured “in such a manner as to include provision for the maintenance of the Open Forest policy, reflecting public access to recreational land, the continuation of the existing replanting obligations and the incorporation of biodiversity requirements.”

He said “it is the Government’s intention that similar appropriate provisions will be included in any sale of Coillte harvesting rights.”

In June 2012, the sale of the rights, as the best means of extracting value from Coillte in the short to medium term, was agreed in principle by the Government.

The Minister said Coillte is a commercial company trading in a competitive environment, so matters relating to the performance of its various businesses and its portfolio are commercially sensitive, and it is, therefore, not appropriate to comment publicly on the analysis taken to date.

“This sale will only proceed if it makes economic and strategic sense for the Irish people. I give the House that commitment tonight,” he said.

If the sale goes ahead, as agreed with the troika, half of the proceeds will be available to the Government to fund employment enhancing projects of a commercial nature, with the other half, while destined eventually to pay down debt, also being available in the first instance to constitute a fund to underpin additional lending into Ireland.

This is to fund our infrastructure and a stimulus package and to create jobs, and is a creative way of using money, he said.