The Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Agriculture, Martin Ferris this evening called on the Government to intervene in order to prevent the proposed sale of Coillte forestry land in Donegal. Deputy Ferris was speaking during a debate which he successfully requested on the issue.
Deputy Ferris said: “During the 2011 general election campaign spokespersons from both Fine Gael and Labour vehemently denied that they would agree to a sale of forestry or land under the control of Coillte.
“That is exactly what they are proposing to do. Not only will they shortly announce the off-loading of forestry rights but they are presiding over the privatisation by stealth as proven by the sale of the lands in Donegal.
“Since 2009 Coillte has sold €108 million of publicly owned lands without any public accountability or scrutiny. It has over the same period paid virtually no dividend to the state.
“It is my experience over the past ten years that it is almost impossible to get information about Coillte. PQs are responded to with the fiction that Coillte is a private company. It is not. Therefore the Ministers for Agriculture and Finance as the sole shareholders on behalf of the state can and indeed must intervene in order to stop the sale of 7% of the land mass of the state in return for a short term financial windfall.
“We must also have full disclosure of what Coillte know about mineral deposits on their land. At a recent Committee hearing I was informed that they have a ‘ball park’ idea of where such deposits are.
“I wonder are such under the land being sold in Donegal? Is there also a buyer already lined up for this land, and is such a buyer interested in mineral exploration? It is not after all a million miles away from the Lough Allen gas deposit which it is proposed to extract by fracking.
“If it was a case of using the land for forestry then surely it could be put up for tender when the government decides soon on that issue?
“Is it also the case that a company represented by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is still interested in acquiring Coillte assets and that may involve the Chinese overseas investment corporation who I am reliably informed expressed interest in Coillte lands and other public assets when part of a high level delegation earlier in the year.
“The forestry lands are held in trust by Coillte for the Irish people. They were taken back from the landlords a century ago and still have huge potential as a recreational, tourist and economic resource to be used for the benefit of the Irish people for generations to come.
“They should not be sold off to finance the Anglo promissory notes.”