Latest Laois News: Local TD clashes with Tánaiste over forestry issues
“Tánaiste’s claim that forestry is moving in the right direction is simply surreal,” Carol Nolan
“Nothing less than emergency legislation removing the requirement for farmers to obtain a licence for forest road construction and thinning operations will do at this point.” Carol Nolan
Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has clashed with the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on issues relating to the resolution of the licensing crisis affecting the forestry sector.
Deputy Nolan was speaking after she raised the matter during Leaders Questions in the Dáil, a day after the IFA led a significant protest to highlight the problems facing the sector outside the Convention Centre where the Dáil is sitting:
“I think that any farmer or indeed anyone involved in forestry who watched the Tánaiste’s performance and listened to his responses to my questions would have been infuriated by the level of detachment and unreality that was on display.
The Tánaiste just does not get it. His government does not get it.
The Tánaiste talked about a 29% increase on licences from the same period last year, but he conveniently forgot to mention that the forestry legislation his Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity introduced a full nine months ago was pushed through the Oireachtas with guarantees and assurances that it contained a suite of measures that would rapidly create a more efficient system.
Yet here we are, still mired within a needlessly complex and labyrinthine assessment process that has almost 6,000 licences waiting for a decision.
Is this what an efficient system looks like?
As the IFA and others have pointed out, farmers are still waiting in excess of two years for a licence to thin forest, when the legislation says they should get a decision within 4 months.
That is a 500% increase in the deadline time set out in law.
So, we are very clearly not, as the Tánaiste claims, ‘moving in the right direction.’
The government had an opportunity last September to listen to the real experts, namely, those who work on the ground, those who operate and own the sawmills, those who could see that the legislation being rammed through would do nothing to address the root causes.
It deliberately chose to ignore them.
I agree with the IFA that nothing less than emergency legislation removing the requirement for farmers to obtain a licence for forest road construction and thinning operations will do at this point.
There is always the option of inserting a sunset clause into such emergency legislation until the kind of genuinely effective regulatory reforms that are needed are put in place, reforms that are capable of clearing the enormous backlog.
Without this kind of action-thousands of jobs will almost certainly be lost unnecessarily and it will be a direct consequence of this government’s failure to grasp the depth of the crisis rural Ireland and the sector is facing,” concluded Deputy Nolan.