Independent TD Carol Nolan has said that Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett must prove herself in relation to the forestry crisis, where 12,000 jobs are on the line.

Nolan has heavily criticised the capacity of the Government and Minster Hackett to effectively respond to the ongoing crisis in the forestry sector.

“The Government’s response really is becoming like groundhog day. TDs have brought this issue up so many times at a cross-party level. It is shameful what is happening in our country. Timber is being imported. The Government is missing its own climate change targets. That is crazy.

“The afforestation target was to plant 8,000ha annually, and the Government is missing that target. That does not inspire confidence in any farmer to plant trees,” Nolan said, during a Dáil debate on issues affecting the forestry sector.

Commenting on the fact that forestry contributes €2.3bn to the economy, Nolan said: “The minister of state does not seem to grasp how important it is for farmers, foresters, sawmills and everyone in the sector.

“Our sawmills are going through a difficult time again. We have raised the issue with the minister of state over the past year and a half, but she has not taken anything on board.

“She made reference in her speech to teamwork and working as a team. I sincerely hope she puts that into practice and starts listening to the stakeholders, who are telling me that Project Woodland is failing miserably because it has not done what it was supposed to do. That is the bottom line,” she said.

Urgent action

Nolan said the Government needs to take urgent action to save a sector that is on the brink and save 12,000 jobs, a large number of which are in the minister of state’s constituency of Laois-Offaly.

“We do not need any more reports. I have said that in a number of conversations I have had with foresters. A number of deputies in the constituency of Laois-Offaly met the stakeholders. We do not need more reports from the Government, we need action. The minister of state needs to prove herself and save the 12,000 jobs that are now on the brink,” concluded Nolan.