Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Barry Cowen T.D., accompanied by his Ministerial colleagues, Senator Pippa Hackett and Martin Heydon T.D. met this week (on Tuesday 7 July) with the CEO, Ms Imelda Hurley and Chairperson of Coillte Ms Bernie Grey for an update on current issues. The meeting was part of a round of discussions which the Ministers are holding with semi-state bodies under the aegis of their Department.

The Ministers confirmed the commitment of the Government to the continued development of forestry in Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government and that they will be working towards early implementation of these actions.

Commenting after the meeting the Minister said “today was a very useful update from Coillte on their strategic outlook and trading performance. Like any company, they face challenges arising from the current economic situation as well as threats from Brexit. They also made clear that current issues around forestry licensing are having an immediate supply threat to the wider sector and I confirmed mine and the Government’s understanding of these issues and our determination to help resolve them. My Department is investing heavily in additional resources, particularly ecologists, in order to issue more licences and will be presenting a detailed project plan to stakeholders in the coming days on how to achieve this. Minister Hackett and I will be presenting a Memo to Government next week announcing some initiatives for the sector”.

It has also been confirmed that Minister Pippa Hackett will be the Minister with direct responsibility for forestry matters in Government. Commenting on the meeting, Minister Hackett said “I am delighted to have forestry as part of my remit as I firmly believe that it’s a sector which can deliver even more environmental economic, and social and amenity benefits for Irish society in the coming years. Coillte, of course, will be central to this and I was very excited to hear of their plans for their Coillte Nature initiative and their collaborations with other bodies such as Bord na Mona. Planting trees is only the beginning of the multi-functional benefits which forestry can offer and the downstream benefits must be a key part of our future climate and biodiversity planning. I am well aware of the current difficulties and together with Minister Cowen will be looking to bring forward some immediate initiatives which can help the sector realise its potential. I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders on these issues as we implement the Programme for Government commitments and it’s important that this implementation is matched by good communication from all with an interest in forestry and woodlands”.