Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett is to take on the responsibility of forestry at the department.
“I am delighted to have forestry as part of my remit as I firmly believe that it's a sector which can deliver even more environmental economic, and social and amenity benefits for Irish society in the coming years,” she said.
This week Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen, Minister Hackett and Minister of State Martin Heydon met with the CEO of Coillte Imelda Hurley and chair of Coillte Bernie Grey for an update on the current issues in the sector.
She said Coillte will be central to the sector delivering economic and social benefits.
“Planting trees is only the beginning of the multi-functional benefits which forestry can offer and the downstream benefits must be a key part of our future climate and biodiversity planning.
“I am well aware of the current difficulties and together with Minister Cowen will be looking to bring forward some immediate initiatives which can help the sector realise its potential. I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders on these issues as we implement the Programme for Government commitments and it’s important that this implementation is matched by good communication from all with an interest in forestry and woodlands,” she said.
The Ministers confirmed the commitment of the Government to the continued development of forestry in Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government and that they will be working towards early implementation of these actions.
Minister Cowen said that the meeting provided a very useful update from Coillte on its strategic outlook and trading performance.
“Like any company, they face challenges arising from the current economic situation as well as threats from Brexit.
My Department is investing heavily in additional resources
“They also made clear that current issues around forestry licensing are having an immediate supply threat to the wider sector and I confirmed mine and the Government's understanding of these issues and our determination to help resolve them.
“My Department is investing heavily in additional resources, particularly ecologists, in order to issue more licences and will be presenting a detailed project plan to stakeholders in the coming days on how to achieve this.
“Minister Hackett and I will be presenting a memo to Government next week announcing some initiatives for the sector,” he said.
Forest Industries Ireland (FII), the Ibec representative body that supports over 12,000 jobs in the Irish forestry industry, welcomed the appointment of Minister Hackett to the forestry portfolio.
“The forestry sector which represents what is a €2.3bn industry spread throughout the 32 counties also expressed their optimism about Minister Hackett and Minister Cowen's commitment to the continued development of forestry in Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government and its early implementation as well as tackling the various licencing challenges that are currently threatening its viability.
“FII has been successful in showcasing the industry to the new Ministers in Agriculture regarding the massive potential that forestry plays in sequestering carbon while being a significant employer in rural communities and where the industry will create a further 6,000 jobs by 2035,” it said.
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