Galway ecologist calls Coillte “rogue agency” following investment fund deal

by Seán Lyons


A Galway-based ecologist has called Coillte a “rogue agency” in light of the semi-state body’s controversial partnership with British investment fund Gresham House.

Jen Fisher, an ecologist working with environmental group Kinvara-Ballinderreen Tree Gang, heavily criticised the deal which will see Gresham House acquire 12,000 hectares of Irish land and mobilise €200 million for forestry.

Fisher questioned the way in which the deal was agreed and the lack of public consultation prior to the agreement.

“They are totally a rogue agency. We own Coillte; it’s a semi-state so if you think about it in terms of democracy, the fact that they didn’t consult with anyone and just went ahead and made this deal with Gresham house and signed it is just so shocking to me,” she said.

“Coillte needs to be completely reformed at this stage”

She also called for Coillte to be reformed due to its “profit-only” model and echoed the concerns of many who have said in recent weeks that the partnership will lead to land price increases which will price farmers out of the market.

“The 1988 Forestry Act means that Coillte has a brief that they are operating for profit-only. In a climate and biodiversity emergency, that is just crazy. Coillte needs to be completely reformed at this stage,” she said.

“The climate emergency has not received the appropriate response”

Fisher called on the government to take the biodiversity and climate crises more seriously and criticised its approach thus far.

“I know the government are declaring a climate emergency but they’re not following through. You know what an emergency response is; the covid response was an emergency response. The climate emergency has not received the appropriate response,” she said.


Impact on farmers


Independent Galway-Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that the deal will “make the land scarcer for the farmers and will drive up the price for competing farmers.”

“I believe that the government should have put a stop to it early on; it shouldn’t be going ahead,” he said.


In defence of the deal


Senator Pauline O’Reilly of the Green Party defended the deal, estimating that “about 50% of the new woodland will be (industrial timber) and 50% will be completely native woodland.”

She stressed the importance to the climate of industrial timber, saying “we’re going to need more timber-framed houses; we need to stop using cement so it’s absolutely essential when it comes to climate to do both.”

“I know some people have had concerns because of some absolutely appalling things that happened in the past but that’s not what this is,” she said.


Kinvara-Ballindereen Tree Gang’s tree plot in Ballycleary; a townland between Kinvara and Ballinderreen. The trees are planted using the Miyawaki method which is believed to enable trees to grow 10 times faster and sequester 30 times more carbon than Coillte-grown trees.

1 thought on “Galway ecologist calls Coillte “rogue agency” following investment fund deal

  1. It’s gratifying to see an ecologist speak out at the atrocious behaviour of this short sighted government agency. I have found them sadly lacking in moral fibre

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