Some “2,632 forestry licences of all types” were issued in 2023 including 27 for afforestation, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.

Replying to a parliamentary question from Michael Fitzmaurice TD, he said: “This can be broken down to 1,215 Coillte felling licences and 1,213 private felling licences.

“We have also issued 890 roads licences and 27 afforestation licences. In terms of a weekly average that equates to 69 forestry licences of all types per week.”

While Minister McConalogue’s breakdown actually adds up to 3,345 licences, it is still well short of what is required, said Teige Ryan, chair of the Social Economic Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA).

“In particular, the performance in issuing only 27 afforestation licences is deplorable as this is only a tiny fraction of what is required to achieve an annual afforestation programme of 8,000ha,” he claimed.

Dramatic increase

He said there should have been a dramatic increase in afforestation licences in October with the launch of the new forestry programme.

“Yet, only 15 licences were issued for the month, amounting to 193ha, when at least 80 to 90 licences were required.”

Ryan maintained there is no afforestation licence plan for the remainder of 2023 and 2024.

“There is no sign of improving timelines and no commitments to an 8,000ha planting programme, as outlined in the Climate Action Plan and the Department’s own Forest Strategy,” he said.