‘Forestry deal not my preferred choice’

Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy has said that the Coillte forestry deal with Gresham House Investments was not his “preferred choice” when it came to increasing forestry cover across the country.

The partnership between the semi-state forestry company and the British investment fund has received widespread criticism. Coillte has defended the deal, claiming it needs to raise funds to plant and acquire forests for its national forestry strategy.

Senator Murphy said that during his discussions with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue he suggested that any area with over 15 per cent forestation should be off limits to the UK investors.

The Fianna Fáil Senator also expressed concerns that good farming land would be sucked up by the project.

“Farmers themselves should consider planting a few acres of broadleaf forestry which now has a subsidy of €1100 per hectare which is extended to 20 years,” he said.

“There is also a plantation grant available so as to help the landowner establish the project. I would urge farmers to seriously consider this option rather than selling their land to Gresham House Investments”.

Senator Murphy said the Agriculture Minister and his Department would be “very supportive” of farmers who consider planting small areas of broadleaf forestry.