Time to ‘see the woods from the trees’ – Flanagan

In a week which has seen Coillte strongly criticised over its alliance with British asset managers Gresham House, MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan hasn’t held back.

“A large international corporation tramples over the rights of a local population to generate a fair living in order to increase the profit margins of PLCs. Sounds like the last century…sounds like the Third World, but it isn’t – welcome to Ireland in 2023”.

MEP Flanagan said that Ireland has massive problems with agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), mainly methane and nitrous oxide.

He claimed that “government and big business” have consciously decided that rather than addressing the problem at source, they will follow a policy which will allow intensive agriculture to continue unabated.

“The fact that no amount of forestry that may sequester CO2 will reduce the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide is conveniently ignored. This is not about sustainable farming, this is about balancing the books at national level”.

The Castlerea native added: “Intensive agriculture must clean up after itself. The ‘polluter pays’ principle cannot be turned on its head, where those creating emissions, biodiversity loss and reduced water quality are given a free pass and other sectors are expected to carry the can. It is morally unjustified to ask some to give up their enterprises and way of life in order that others can continue their destructive practices”.

MEP Flanagan said that the current policy will see  intensive agriculture continuing, leading to negative consequences at both ends of the spectrum.

“Intensive agriculture will continue on its destructive path – destroying biodiversity, polluting our waterways, and increasing agricultural GHGs. At the other end of the scale, low intensity farmers – currently the keepers and custodians of our biodiversity – will be coerced and muscled out by the money behind the investment funds and their land planted with monoculture forestry”.

He added that ‘blanket forestry’ has serious negative effects on water quality, biodiversity and the landscape, as well as impacting on the social fabric of rural areas through depopulation, and loss of the services needed to maintain life in rural areas.

The MEP contended that the “billions” being “marshalled” by Coillte would be much better used in incentivising take-up of agroforestry across all farms in Ireland.

“Agroforestry can build resilient and sustainable food production systems and increase productivity as trees give cover and protection to crops and animals in extremes of weather. It can also prevent soil erosion and water pollution and generate space for nature”.