A new forestry partnership between Coillte and a UK investment fund highlights the “fundamental flaws” in the government approach to forestry, a Social Democrats TD has claimed.

Deputy Holly Cairns, who is the party’s agriculture spokesperson, said that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) should be supporting farmers to develop forestry.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue confirmed on Tuesday (January 10), that a partnership between Coillte and Gresham House to manage around 12,000ha of forestry, did not require his approval.

The €200 million ‘Irish Strategic Forestry Fund’ is supported by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) which is managed and controlled by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

Gresham House has confirmed that the ISIF has invested €25 million in the Irish Strategic Forestry Fund to date.

Minister McConalogue, along with Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett, is set to meet with the semi-state forestry agency to discuss the matter.


Deputy Holly Cairns claimed that Minister Charlie McConalogue was “trying to distance himself from this deal”.

She said that the €25 million of taxpayers’ money should have been directed to farmers.

“While this looks good on paper, the reality is that this will most likely involve planting thousands of Sitka Spruce and other species that return the most profit quickly, but have very negative environmental consequences.

“We all agree on the need for more forestry, but this is not the way to go about it. Imagine the difference a €25 million investment in ordinary family farms would make?

“I have consistently called for competitive funding to help farmers plant trees, especially broadleaf native varieties,” the Cork TD said.

cap negotiations dáil
Deputy Holly Cairns

Cairns said that current afforestation incentives are not competitive with other farm subsidies which is pushing farmers away from planting trees toward the beef and dairy sectors.

“Families are just trying to get by. The department of agriculture should be supporting farms to develop forestry, not punishing them.

“The government is failing to show leadership on this issue.

“There is a glaring need for a planting programme that supports farmers and commercial forestry.

“There is a place for forestry companies to meet national timber demands, but this has to be balanced with a massive planting programme of native broadleaf forests.

“Rewilding and biodiversity strategies should encourage farmers to convert portions of agricultural land to native forestry, especially on watercourses, allowing for the establishment of wildlife corridors,” she said.