Coillte forest sale: IMPACT welcomes Government decision

IMPACT trade union, which represents Coillte staff, today (Wednesday) welcomed the Government’s decision not to proceed with the sale of the company’s timber harvesting rights. The union, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to prevent the sale, said the decision represented a commonsense approach, which would save taxpayers’ money and lift threats to rural jobs, tourism, and public access to Coillte forests.

IMPACT’s Coillte branch made a decisive intervention in the debate about the company’s future by commissioning the report by economist Peter Bacon, which concluded that the proposed sale would cost the State €1.3 billion – almost twice as much as it could hope to raise in a sale.

Welcoming the decision today, IMPACT national secretary Matt Staunton said the union was open to exploring any reforms that could genuinely enhance the operation and profitability of Coillte. “Today’s decision to retain Coillte’s harvesting rights is a sensible response to the evidence that a sale would actually cost taxpayers money. Coillte sustains thousands of jobs in the timber, tourism and wood products industries, returns significant sums to the exchequer each year, and provides a fantastic resource to the public, with 18 million visits to Coillte forests each year. Coillte staff are enthusiastic about contributing to and further enhancing this contribution toIreland’s environment and economy,” he said.

Last year, IMPACT’s Coillte branch launched the Save Our Forestscampaign and website, which won support from a range of community, environmental, sporting and countryside groups. The unions’ document, also called Save Our Forests, argued that a sale of Coillte harvesting rights would “destroy the character and quality of Irish forests and limit countryside access for the general public,” while jeopardising jobs in tourism and the 12,000-strong Irish forest products sector.  This formed the basis of the union’s lobbying and information campaign, which helped win broad political support for a Government rethink. Peter Bacon’s findings later undermined any budgetary or economic rationale for the sale.