Forestry licences are currently not being issued within an acceptable timeframe of 120 days, impacting hurley makers now more than before, Cork East TD Seán Sherlock has said.

Deputy Sherlock recently spoke in a Dáil debate addressing the forestry licensing issue, which, he said, is still impacting hurley expansions.

There have been many repeated promises regarding forestry growth in Ireland, Deputy Sherlock, who is also the Labour Party spokesperson on agriculture, said. He added:

“Despite the repeated promises to forest owners, they are still only getting half the licences required to meet the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) targets. It is just not enough for the sector.

“We planted 2,000 ha in 2021 but it appears, from looking at the metrics, that we will end up with fewer than 2,000 ha for 2022, according to Deputy Sherlock.

“I wish there was a greater sense of urgency about the potential of the forestry sector to deliver. We still do not have, what I would call, a fit-for-purpose ash dieback scheme,” he continued.

The agriculture spokesperson said he previously addressed that there has been no apparent progress on the ash dieback scheme, and that the forestry sector can deliver much more for the island of Ireland.

“There has to be a greater degree of political imperative put behind the forestry sector to make sure we achieve the growth targets that are necessary to sustain the sector,” according to Deputy Sherlock.

Forestry licences

In response to the matter, Minister of State at the DAFM, Senator Pippa Hackett said the output of forestry licences was severely impacted from 2019 onwards, due to a high court ruling around environmental regulation.

Since then, the DAFM has invested in hiring additional ecologists, forestry inspectors and administrative staff to work solely on licensing, according to Minister Hackett.

The minister added that she can ensure Deputy Sherlock that there is a great sense of urgency around forestry:

“Last year, licensing increased by 56% and my officials assure me that it will increase afforestation licenses by 100% this year. Progress has and will continue to be made.”

The recent passage of legislation, Minister Hackett said, will enable the development of a scheme to allow up to 1 ha of native trees to be planted in suitable areas without the need for an afforestation licence.

The minister hopes to have this scheme established before the end of the year, and engagement with stakeholders on the design of such a scheme will begin shortly.

A new forest strategy has been developed, and will include attractive financial supports to incentivise afforestation and help meet climate targets, Minister Hackett said.