The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has criticised the response by ministers to the association’s protest at the Convention Centre in Dublin this week on the forestry licencing backlog.

Following the protest on Wednesday (July 14), Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for forestry Pippa Hackett issued a joint statement in which they said improvements had been made to the system and that the licencing situation was being addressed.

However, IFA president Tim Cullinan claimed today (Friday, July 16): “It’s utterly disingenuous of both Ministers McConalogue and Hackett to say they had some good news for farmers.

“They told us nothing new. We protested because of deep frustration over government inaction. We need emergency legislation to give farmers licences for forest roads and thinning operations.”

Meanwhile, IFA farm forestry chairperson Vincent Nally said there are over 6,000 licences in the backlog, with farmers waiting in excess of two years to get a licence to thin or manage their forests.

“There is no good news in this. We need targets and we need a guarantee from both ministers that the backlog will be cleared by the end of the year,” Nally said.

He added: “Until we get this guarantee, farmers will maintain the campaign and we will escalate our action.”

Nally claimed there was a “disconnect” between the government and forest owners.

“Our forests are being devalued while we wait for the government to commission review after review. We have had enough. The spin being put out to deflect from the crisis in the sector will not wash with farmers.”

According to the IFA, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s forestry dashboard shows that only 12 licences were issued to private forest owners up to last week, with five, six and one of these being for afforestation, forest roads and felling respectively.