Coillte payment fiasco to be examined by Ag Committee

The Coillte payment fiasco is set to be examined by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The chair of the committee, Fine Gael TD Pat Deering, confirmed that Coillte has been called upon to explain how payments failed to issue to landowners as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Deering expressed his concerns over Coillte’s admission that the state body harvested some landowners’ forests and did not pay them.

Recently, the managing director of Coillte, Gerard Murphy, admitted that the state-owned body had problems in relation to communications and transparency in its dealings with landowners.

Also Read: Coillte blames ‘communication problems’ for partnership non-payments

Commenting on the situation, deputy Deering said: “As chair of the Agriculture Committee, I am hugely concerned by Coillte’s admission that it has not paid landowners for the timber it has harvested from their lands.

These landowners entered into partnerships with Coillte in good faith and in return for fair payment; and in some cases they have not been paid for years of harvesting.

“While I welcome Gerard Murphy’s statement admitting that this has been happening and that all payments are to be made in full in the next couple of months, I will be asking the committee to invite Coillte to appear before us once again as a matter of urgency to explain this situation.

“The committee engaged with Coillte in December; this issue was raised and they are keeping the committee updated on the matter. It is also anticipated that representatives from the IFA Forestry Committee would engage with us very soon,” he said.

Transparency

Transparency is needed to restore trust between Coillte and forest owners going forward, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) National Farm Forestry chairman, Pat Collins, said.

He added that the IFA has scheduled a meeting with Coillte, in order to get an update on the work undertaken to ensure that farmers’ concerns with their partnerships are being addressed and that there is greater transparency on the models used to calculate annual payments.

“Farmers entered into the Farm Partnership contracts in good faith; they saw Coillte as an extension of the Government.

It is important – if trust is to be restored – that there is greater transparency on the models used to calculate their annual payment, so farmers understand how their crop was valued.

Collins added that it is very important that the ongoing management issues with the partnerships are resolved to the farmers’ satisfaction and that all outstanding payments are issued as quickly as possible.

He encouraged farmers who had issues with their partnership contract to get in contact with Coillte.