Sinn Féin’s Matt Cary has claimed that the Department for Agriculture approached Gresham House on the formation of a commercial forestry investment fund last summer to “do a deal”, providing Coilte with the “go-ahead” he needed.
Addressing his party’s motion against the new team-up between the semi-state forestry business and the UK asset manager, which will allow Irish/foreign investors to buy/plant C4,000 hectares of vacant land with DAFM grants and premiums and C8 000ha of existing forestry over the next five years, Deputy Carthy said he had only received new information on the arrangement yesterday.
It is expected to come under pressure from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers this evening when the Dáil will vote on a private members’ motion calling on the government to “instruct Coilte to immediately stop its proposed joint venture with Gresham House”. says.”
The update also comes ahead of today’s much-anticipated Agriculture Committee meeting, where Agriculture Minister Charlie McConaughey and Minister of State for Agriculture Pippa Hackett will face further scrutiny on this latest dilemma that has engulfed the agro-forestry sector.
Speaking in the Dáil last night, and standing directly opposite Agriculture Home Ministers, Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “A short text in parliamentary response I received from you today, Minister, but you didn’t repeat it here tonight, but I I will put it in the records of the Dáil, and this is the first time I have come to know about it.
“It said: ‘a shareholder letter of execution issued to Coilte on June 2, 2022, which includes a directive to Coilte, is a quote,’ to support and realize such a forest on a meaningful scale.” develop initiatives to.in the coming years whether as part of their core business or as participants in a subsidiary or partnership venture.
“It is clear that you knew what Coilte was planning to do and that letter of expectation was the go-ahead, the mandate, that required Coilte to approach Gresham House and make a deal.
“It is not something you were not aware of, you were fully aware of it throughout the process, but you kept this House, the Agriculture Committee, the Sector, the farmers of Ireland, completely in the dark; And then you come here in front of us and you tell us ‘we can’t do anything, the deal is already done’.
“This is absolute cynicism, it is the reason we have the crisis in forestry, it is the reason we are failing to meet our targets.
“We now have a deal which will see a venture owned by a British investment fund buy thousands of hectares of Irish land – most of the land, as ministers use in its defence, is actually already forest, only 3,500 to 12,000ha hectares of new afforestation really so where does it fit into any climate action plan?
“This will put prices out of reach for most family farmers, the deal will see Irish taxpayers’ money, one million of it, being used to subsidize the actual purchase of land by a British investment company.
“And you have cited the assumption that ‘it is only 1pc of the overall target’. Imagine, after facing the challenges you are facing on your first one per cent, what do we expect this government to do Is there any chance of meeting the 99% PC that is actually needed to reach our climate action targets?
Responding to the matter last night, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue acknowledged Coillte’s decision to partner with Gresham House on the €200m Irish Strategic Forestry Fund, which includes €25m by the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, as “our preferred option Not there”.
“Coilte has signed a five-year contract which is well within his remit operating a quasi-state agency.
“We want to enable Coilte to see how they can work more closely with farmers, but also how they can work more closely with the state in terms of reforestation getting back into the field.
“But they have signed this five-year contract for a total of 4000ha of new afforestation – which would be 1pc of our overall national target for new afforestation between now and 2050, so it is only a small part of our overall is the target,” said the minister.