A TD has argued that the type of forestry carried out in Ireland is “not environmentally sustainable” due to a lack of incentives for farmers to plant more sustainable trees.

Independent TD Michael McNamara told the Dáil that farmers are being prevented from harvesting forestry they plant, and that there is no incentive to replace “monoculture” Sitka spruce plantations with “something more sustainable”.

The Clare TD was speaking during discussion on a motion presented to the Dáil by Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill, who is the chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

McNamara told Minister for State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett that forestry in Ireland is not environmentally sustainable at present.

“There is no sense of urgency, and farmers are seeing no urgency, with regard to their applications to plant trees or to cut the forestry they have planted, perhaps to replace it with something more sustainable,” he argued.

“I hope we are about to see a change because all the talk in the world about afforestation in Glasgow [during COP26] – one can fly anywhere in the world and produce grandiloquent statements – is completely worthless unless it is backed up by what farmers are experiencing on the ground,” McNamara added.

“We need action now as we are nearly half-way through the lifetime of this government and we need it soon.”

“I ask the Minister of State to move outside her comfort zone. Stop talking to the converted and talk to farmers, ordinary people and landowners. They are the ones who are the future of afforestation in Ireland if there is going to be one,” he stressed.

McNamara concluded: “Above all, the minister of state needs to back-up the talk with actions which have been singularly missing up to now.”

During the broader debate, deputy Jackie Cahill called on the Dáil to take note of the committee’s recent report, titled ‘Issues impacting the Forestry Sector in Ireland’.

The Tipperary TD called for the implementation of a forestry charter “similar to that which operates in the farming sector with strict, agreed timeframes between stakeholders and department”.