Minister Charlie McConalogue addressing last night's IFA AGM in the Lavey Inn.

Minister urged to 'put an end to this madness' of new Coillte partnership

IFA Minister to meet Coillte on Thursday

"It stinks", was Maurice Brady's summation of the deal struck by Coillte and an asset management company.

The Cavan IFA Chair was addressing Minister Charlie McConalogue at Tuesday night's AGM in the Lavey Inn. The matter was raised on numerous occasions at the event, which was well attended despite the hazardous driving conditions.

The minister described it variously as a "proposal" and "commitment option", suggesting the issue wasn't finalised, and said he would meet with Coillte to discuss the matter on Thursday.

Maurice Brady raised the topic saying: "The recent development by Coillte to get into bed with an English investment fund sends a very poor message to those already involved, or hoping to get involved [in forestry]. In fact I'd go as far as to say it stinks!

"The forestry programme has been dogged by delay and failure over the years, with felling licences and ash dieback problems but two examples. There is simply no way that Irish CAP funds - in other words farmers' funds - can be diverted to premiums to go to a foreign country who are not even a member of the EU.

"I'm calling on you to use everything at your disposal to put an end to this madness."

Cathal Rudden Cavan Forestry chair also raised the issue with the minister saying that "the worry here" is they didn't want to see the Scottish experience of this type of arrangement repeated in Ireland.

Minister McConalogue noted the policies they pursued for forestry had been designed to favour farmers. They will get a higher premium of €1,137/ha tax free for 20 years for broadleaf native trees, as opposed to just 15 years for non-farmers.

"The objective is about encouraging farmers to look at how they can, and you can incorporate forestry into your platform."

Addressing the same topic later he expanded that the issue arose out of Coillte's attempts to resume their afforestation work.

"I know Coillte have been looking at getting back into the afforestation space themselves, that's something that they had done in the past an they stopped doing because there was a state aid ruling which meant they couldn't draw premiums. And they have been looking at that aspect of hit, and from what I'm aware so far, it's a 3,000ha commitment option that they are looking at with regard to the arrangement that they have engaged in.

"That's something that is within their individual mandate to consider that. But listen it's something I will have a meeting with them on Thursday to discuss and examine in a lot more detail."