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Ferris demands clarification on legal status of Coillte

20 December, 2010 - by Martin Ferris TD

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has asked the Minister for Agriculture to provide clarification on the legal status of Coillte, which owns forestry land valued at €1.2 billion. Deputy Ferris was responding to a reply from Brendan Smith last week to a Dáil question tabled by Ferris. In his reply the Minister stated that Coillte is a ‘private company.’

Deputy Ferris said: “I have tabled further questions to both the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance who are listed as the company’s shareholders, requesting that they clarify Coillte’s relationship to the state.

“I do so in the light of an EU judgement which rejected Coillte’s claim that it was a private company, and stated that ‘Coillte Teoranta is and always has been a public undertaking wholly owned by the State’. Coillte also has massive borrowing rights guaranteed by the state and its land bank consists entirely of land that was transferred to the state under the Land Commission. How then can it claim to be a private company? It is also a fact that both the McCarthy Bord Snip report and the current McCarthy review group on state assets clearly consider Coillte to be a state asset under the control of the Department of Agriculture.

“What then is the point to this Kafkaesque blurring of Coillte’s legal status? Why can such an entity consider itself immune to public scrutiny through Freedom of Information requests despite criticism from the Ombudsman? Why has it only paid the Exchequer a small proportion of the €300m it has made in profits in recent years while at the same time amassing considerable debt?

“These questions need urgent response given the growing belief that Coillte will be recommended to be sold off to private investors. Among those who have expressed and interest in buying Coillte lands is the International Forestry Fund, a company chaired by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. We await with interest the report of the McCarthy group which was supposed to have been presented before the end of the last Dáil term.” ENDS

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