Boyd Barrett calls proposed sale of forests 'an unspeakable crime'
on 26/02/2013 13:05:00
The proposal will be debated in the Dáil this evening and tomorrow evening since, under the bailout programme, the Government is planning to sell the rights for an estimated €600m.
There will be a vote on the proposal at 9pm tomorrow night.
There will be a demonstration opposing the sale tomorrow at 5pm outside the Dáil.
Earlier, the Irish Timber Council said the proposed sale could lead to the closure of all ten of Ireland's sawmills with the loss of 2,500 jobs.
Richard Boyd Barrett said: "This motion and tomorrow's protest in is an effort to ring the alarm bells, alert the public and put urgent pressure on the Government to halt the plan to sell off one of our most precious natural resources and State assets.
"To sell off the harvesting rights to 1.2 million acres of public forestry would be an unspeakable crime against the citizens and the country. It would mean asset-stripping this State of one of its most valuable and precious resources in order to pay off the gambling debts of the bankers and speculators who have brought this country to its knees.
"To do this would be nothing less than a despicable act of cultural, economic and environmental sabotage."
He urged the Government to invest in and manage the forests that have the potential to create thousands of jobs.
He said: "Incredibly, if this despicable plan were to go ahead, it is very possible that it will be bankers - the very people who helped bankrupt the country - that might gain ownership of our public forests.
"All the signs are that the value that NewEra has put on the harvesting rights represents a gross under-valuation of these woodland resources. We are literally giving away one of our most valuable assets - quite possibly to the same sort of people who helped ruin this country."
"Private for profit interests will have no commitment to the cultural importance of our forests, to maintaining public access, to developing the forests in the interests of the people and our economy or to their sustainable management. They will be interested in short term profit for shareholders - pure and simple."
Deputy Clare Daly said: "Coillte, since 2009, has sold €108m of trees with harvesting rights to IFUT (Irish Forestry Unit Trust) a pension fund company of which Coillte are partners. Coillte have used these proceeds to pay off some of its own large pension fund debts.
"Coillte have sold 40,000 acres of public forests since its inception in 1989."
Deputy Joan Collins said the Government "have a nerve" to try and sell the harvesting rights of the forests.
She said: "These rights are not theirs to sell. Labour stated the following in their election manifesto.
'Labour is committed to concept of public enterprise, and is determined to ensure that semi-state companies play a full role in the recovery of the Irish economy. Labour is opposed to short-termist privatisation of key state assets, such as Coillte or the energy networks.'
"If Labour go ahead with privatising Coillte it is another in a long list of capitulations from them in government."