Coillte has advertised for sale 37 acres of publicly owned forest of archaeological and geological significance for €250,000 at a time when the Government has pledged to increase forestry coverage to meet climate targets, the Dáil has heard.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was "absolutely shocking" and it "stinks" as he held up what he said was an advertisement for the acreage in Enniskerry on the Dublin-Wicklow border.
He said “there is a right of way through this forest, which is a public amenity forest. There are bronze age cooking pits in it. It is of great geological significance and Coillte is flogging it off.”
The Dún Laoghaire TD added that in 2013 after protests the government gave commitments that forests would not be sold.
Calling on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to look into the issue, he asked if the State forestry service was obliged to seek permission “to flog off public forest. It certainly should have to.”
He said:, “We are getting net deforestation and the State forestry company, which is entrusted with being the steward of the public forest estate, is flogging off public forestry. That is utterly unacceptable.”
Mr Martin said, however, that the People Before Profit TD had a “habit of coming in and raising an issue, and when I research it, it turns out not to be quite the same” as he presents it.
But he pledged to pursue the issue, and said he would seek a response from Coillte.
The Taoiseach accused him of “sloganeering”, and said he was not involved in “solution mode” but in politics and opposition for the sake of it.
Mr Martin pointed out that there had been many objections to tree-planning in the country which had held back the growth of forests. “There is commercial forestry but we need far stronger native woodland development and growth. We need to finance that and we will.”
He added that legislation was passed to try to streamline the planning processes around granting licences for afforestation.
He said Mr Boyd Barrett “needs to be honest about that too and call it out” when it is raised with him.