Oireachtas Committee was ‘misled’ over forestry licences – Fitzmaurice

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine was “misled” over the issue of forestry licences last week, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.

Confirmation yesterday (Wednesday, December 2) that the backlog of forestry licences within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at the moment is at approximately 4,700 by Minister Pippa Hackett “shows that the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee was misled – at best – when the minister and senior department officials were last before the committee” deputy Fitzmaurice says.

Speaking on the matter, the Roscommon-Galway TD said the matter is something he is going to raise with the committee chair.

I feel it is disingenuous for the minister to imply that the figure of 1,900 quoted by both herself and senior department officials during the committee meeting was solely in relation to the number of files held up in the ecology backlog.

“I had gone to significant efforts to extrapolate figures for road licences, felling licences and planting licences and came up with a figure of just under 4,000 – which still turned out to be wide of the mark.

“I outlined the findings clearly in the committee and asked how there was such a difference in my figure and theirs, only to be told that they were unsure and that I would be gotten back to on the matter.

“If a licence application has been submitted, then it should be considered held up in the system until it has been granted,” the TD contended.

I believe that Minister Hackett and senior officials in the department either misled the committee knowingly or genuinely didn’t know how many licences were stuck in the system – either situation is very serious, considering the pressure the forestry sector is under.

“As previously mentioned, I have also been made aware of other information that is at odds with what we were told during the committee meeting.

“I look forward to seeing the update for the committee from Minister Hackett this week, but the fact of the matter is that she – along with senior department officials – may need to be called back before the committee,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.