A newly formed alliance is holding a protest outside the Dáil on Thursday (January 26) calling for a halt to the Coillte forestry partnership with UK private investment fund, Gresham House.

The Save our Forests Alliance is also calling for a radical reform of the semi-state forestry agency.

The alliance of environmental, community, rural organisations, public representatives and concerned individuals will demonstrate on Kildare Street at 12:30p.m to coincide with a special Dáil debate on the controversy.

The debate was sought by People Before Profit–Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who is also part of the new alliance.

Coillte Hackett forestry Afforestation /AIFC grant schemes forestry incentives FII

The agreement between Coillte and Gresham House was announced on Friday, January 6.

It involves the establishment of a €200 million ‘Irish Strategic Forestry Fund’.

The new fund, which is aiming for a portfolio of around 12,000ha of new and existing forests, is supported by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) which is managed and controlled by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The Save Our Forests – Save Our Land group believes that the deal amounts to “public grants and funds being used to facilitate to a corporate takeover of huge swathes of land and forestry”.

It claimed this will negatively impact small farmers and rural communities, along with progressing the “failed Sitka Spruce industrial model of forestry that is damaging biodiversity, water and soil quality”.

The new alliance has also launched a national petition which demands that the government abandons the deal, reform Coillte and develop a new sustainable forestry model.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), which will take part in Thursday’s protest, said that it cannot be left to “private, for-profit interests to address the climate and biodiversity crisis”.

“Changes to land use can only deliver long-term benefits if they have the support of local communities.

“This means using public money to buy land for the creation of new nature reserves or the expansion of national parks,” IWT stated.

“We need to move to a system where forest establishment is based upon natural regeneration, where native forests are at least as much a priority as commercial timber production, and where forests for commercial production are based upon a diversity of species, ages and a ‘continuous cover’ of trees,” the group added.