Timber industry ‘sourcing trees from Russia’ due to objector logjam – Healy-Rae

The Irish timber industry is currently sourcing trees from Russia as one-third of Irish saw mills’ consumption is tied up in appeals due to objections, according to independent TD Michael Healy-Rae.

Raising the matter with the Taoiseach Micheal Martin in the Dáil on Wednesday (September 9), the Kerry TD said:

“Unless the government acts quickly, Ireland will soon run out of essential construction products such as pallets, timber for the construction industry and our supply chain forcing timber construction lines to shut.

Only for the fact of the pandemic and the shutdown and in Ireland we would have run out of timber by now.

“We are actually facing a nightmare scenario, where stocks are gone down and layoffs may only be weeks away.

“These workers have been given notice that there is a potential for layoffs in the very near future,” he added.

Deputy Healy-Rae outlined the reason for the crisis, stating that Coillte has cancelled “many of its auctions” due to the limited supply of timber with some in the timber industry being forced to Russia to source vital timber that is needed in the construction industry.

The reason for the crisis is the permit system for harvesting and planting trees and making forestry roads, which has been overwhelmed by over 2,000 applications and 400 approved applications being appealed by a handful of so-called environmentalists.

“Some whom are supported by the Green Party who is supporting this government? The forestry appeals committee is being inundated by objections to most licences intended to prevent the planting of conifers and block the felling of commercial forestry.”

Deputy Healy-Rae said it was a ridiculous situation and is extremely unfair on farmers who have planted their land thinking that they would be able to sell their thinnings and clearfell their timber when the time comes.

An Taoiseach Micheal Martin agreed with deputy Healy-Rae that the forestry sector was in crisis due to the high volume of appeals.

The Taoiseach added: “Thousands of jobs were at risk if the matter is not dealt with firmly.

The rate of appeals on Coillte’s licences increased from 30% to 80% in August and it is likely to be 100% in September. These are not just appeals on commercial felling. Some of Coillte nature’s new non-profit tree planting proposals, such as the Dublin mountains transformation, have also been appealed.

“Huge amounts of trees in the ground cannot be felled and it is very serious. We have to deal with it and we will deal with it,” the Taoiseach said.

Noting that the Taoiseach stopped short of condemning serial objectors, deputy Healy-Rae said:

“Currently the forest sector employs up to 12,000 people in Ireland, many in rural areas – with most of them facing an uncertain future.”