Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has expressed her frustration at the Government for pushing through forestry legislation without proper scrutiny and not accepting amendments.

Holly said:

“Last night, the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 was rushed through the Dáil. The whole process has been incredibly frustrating and it is simply bad lawmaking.

“The forestry sector is in a crisis because of hold-ups in the licensing and appeals system, but instead of providing the resources to clear the backlogs, they introduce a new Bill.

“The Government’s argument is that the licensing and appeals process needs to change, whereas my engagement with the industry shows that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine just needs to process the appeals in a timely manner. Instead, this new Bill reduces the ways people can participate in decisions that affect their area by adding economic and bureaucratic barriers.

“The way this Bill was set up pitted the industry against environmentalists in a classic but futile argument. The attention should have been on the former Government and the Department who let this situation reach breaking point. The underlying issues have not been addressed and it will soon be harder for communities to challenge large developments by corporations in their areas.

“As a new TD, it is disheartening to see legislation being pushed through without proper debate or the Government being willing to take on amendments that were meant to improve the laws.

“Instead, we have a bad law that will not solve problems in the sector and will lead to issues downline. The debate on the amendments was also a fiasco – the Government was not willing to accept any of the well thought out amendments and then some Opposition TDs held everything up by talking endlessly.

“The forestry sector needs considerable reform but this legislation and the hours spent discussing it doesn’t address the larger issues of climate change and Brexit.

“Forestry can make a significant contribution to a sustainable economy that supports rural communities. But the current forestry system is failing communities, the industry and workers.

“We need to discuss a national forestry programme and its role in increasing biodiversity. Stakeholders have been calling for this for years.

“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture to devote Dáil time to properly discuss this issue.”

October 1, 2020

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