Coillte overhaul ‘must be handled with care’

Opposition TDs and campaign groups have warned that the restructuring of the company in charge of State-owned forests must be handled with care and not result in job losses.

The move to overhaul Coillte is going ahead after the Cabinet agreed not to sell off forest harvesting rights.

It was also announced this week that any sale of the State’s 25% share in Aer Lingus would be put on hold.

Politicians have welcomed the decision not to sell Coillte’s timber-producing rights. However, TDs and environmentalists cautioned yesterday that the future merger of Coillte with state-owned Bord na Móna and the forestry group’s restructuring must be handled with care.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who participated in the “walk in the woods” protest against any sale of Coillte’s assets, said: “I am delighted to see that people power has made such a significant impact.”

After months of examining the proposed sale of Coillte forestry, ministers agreed this week to defer any sale, but pledged to reform the body. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the restructuring of Coillte would take 18 months. The Cabinet want to make it a refocused commercial State company delivering for the bio-energy and forestry sector.

Ms Murphy said: “Now we are keeping our forests, we have an opportunity to create a strong forestry plan and a real opportunity to develop the timber industry in Ireland in a way that can create jobs. That absolutely has to be a part of the restructuring process that lies ahead.”

Mountaineering Ireland also welcomed this week’s decision and said it represented a win for climbers and hillwalkers. But the group’s chief executive added: “We would like to see consultation as part of any further proposals, given Coillte’s Forest Stewardship Council certification.”

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