Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has warned that a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is “inevitable” if positive changes do not become apparent in the forestry sector.

Speaking on the matter, the representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency said: “The forestry sector continues to be hampered by a lack of real progress around delays in dealing with licence applications for afforestation, forest roads and felling.

“This is despite all of the measures supposedly taken by the department to date – including hiring more ecologists – to alleviate these problems, which have come to the fore in recent months.

If you look at our forestry planting targets and where we are at the moment, there is no chance we will even come close to the 8,000ha target. We are on a downward spiral and if swift action isn’t taken, the sector will crumble – as it is already on its knees.

“The minister and his officials need to come out and clarify how the sector has been let slip into such a state,” the deputy added.

The independent deputy added that while more ecologists have been hired and progress is slowly being made, the forestry sector needs to see “real results” adding that the “future of the sector and people’s livelihoods are at risk”.

Deputy Fitzmaurice has threatened that if stakeholders do not see significant positive changes in the short-term, then a motion of no confidence in the minister and officials over the sector will be “inevitable”.

“Patience amongst stakeholders has run out; they need to start seeing results,” the deputy concluded.

Committee report

Last week the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine published a report into the forestry sector in Ireland and the issues it faces.

The report makes recommendations on several problems in the sector, including the Mackinnon Report; the Programme for Government; licencing issues; ash dieback; and planning for the future.

The Mackinnon Report was commissioned and published in 2019 to review the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) processes and procedures around forestry, particularly for licencing for afforestation, felling and forest roads.