Fianna Fáil councillor, Mary Bohan, has slammed Government proposals to sell Coillte harvesting rights to private operators.
Speaking at the recent monthly Council meeting, Cllr Bohan put forward a motion calling on the Government to cease all plans of proceeding with such a sale.
“Obviously buyers will only be interested in making as much profit as they can, and the commercial exploitation will be top of their agenda. As I have stated in my motion I strongly believe that if the Government go ahead with this sale it will have serious social, environmental and economic consequences for the Irish people,” she said.
“Currently 18 million visits are made to Coillte forests each year. Will we be able to maintain this level of access and right of way? This will have a major impact for our residential population and also on our tourism sector.
“There are 12,000 jobs in the forest products service, currently worth 2.2 billion a year including €286 million in exports. These jobs will be under threat if this privatisation goes ahead. Representations of the saw milling industry have already gone public in expressing their grave concern in this matter. They believe that if the sale goes ahead, there is no guarantee that the Coillte wood supply would go to an Irish processors, particularly if foreign buyers take up the harvesting rights.”
Cllr Bohan noted that very few countries have privatised state forests, in New Zealand it has been disastrous where some of the forests went into foreign ownership causing serious access problems and a outflow of profits. In Sweden 65% of state forests went into private ownership - 100% is now restored to public ownership.
“In Britain the government abandoned plans to sell the forests following pressure from the public. It is of utmost importance that our state forests should be kept in state ownership for the benefit of the Irish people,” she maintained.