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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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  11 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] This week saw a further 1,000 acres sold. Private interests will make money from the sale of Christmas trees and logs, while industry and jobs that could have been created in the forestry sector will be lost. Will the Tánaiste grant the nation a Christmas wish by undertaking not to give away our woodlands and forests to people who see them only as an opportunity for profit? Will he give a commitment that our forests and woodlands will be retained for the benefit of the citizens of this State?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am glad that Deputy Boyd Barrett has learnt that money does not grow on trees-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin One could just inherit it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore -----and, second, that we cannot solve our economic problems with fairy tales. I offer him another lesson, which is about distinguishing the wood from the trees or, more particularly, the woodlands from the trees. As the Deputy says, the trees have the potential to generate income for the State. That is why we intend to sell them; otherwise, one does not get money for them. The decision the Government has made is about selling the harvesting rights of trees - we are not selling the trees, woodlands or forests. However, if we want to generate income from the trees which grow in the forest, we have to sell them.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That is why we grow them in the first place.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Yes, that is why we grow them in the first place.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley This sounds like an episode from Snow White.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It is called separating the trees from the wood.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The problem is that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, does believe that money grows on trees. Otherwise, he would not expect people who are in mortgage distress, on social welfare or whose incomes have been slashed to pay property charges and endure other cuts to their income. My point is that while money does not grow on the Christmas trees that are in people's front rooms this Christmas, money does grow on the trees on Coillte lands and so do jobs.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Only if the trees are sold.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Leaving aside private interests, even Coillte itself, as it prepares for privatisation, does not actually generate jobs or revenue for the State. What it does is asset-strip our woodlands and sell them off for a song. One need only look to Switzerland, a country half the size of Ireland, to see what can be done.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy put a question to the Tánaiste?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Some 100,000 people are employed on its woodlands compared with 11,000 in Ireland. Those numbers will be further reduced when the Government sells off the trees to private interests which see them only as a cash crop that will make a quick buck. They have no interest in maintaining them as woodlands or developing the woodland industry to create jobs. That is the point I am making.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is over time. Will he put a question to the Tánaiste?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It is interesting that one of the companies that is in the bidding to buy our forests is a Swiss bank, a subsidiary of which is headed up by Bertie Ahern.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Deputy not to make allegations.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch Deputy Boyd Barrett is embarrassing his colleagues in the benches in front.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That company understands the value of our forests because it knows how to manage them properly. Why does the Government not keep them in public ownership, to generate the jobs that could put our people back to work, instead of selling them off to asset strippers who want only to cash in and have no intention of creating jobs or revenue for the State?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The main reason, normally, that anybody would grow a crop is to sell it and generate income. That applies to growing trees in the same way it applies to growing corn. The Deputy seems to be having some difficulty in understanding this. Since he is on the subject of public money, I note that he, together with all his Independent colleagues, is in receipt of a payment from the State for research. Given that the Deputy is almost two years in the House, he should have received some €80,000 tax free at this stage. Perhaps he might use that money to do some research on the subject.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It is the same payment the Tánaiste and his colleagues receive under the party allowance.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I do not see much output for that payment. The Deputy is nearly two years in the House and I have not seen a single Private Members' Bill from him anywhere on the Order Paper. I do not know what he is doing with the €80,000 of tax-free money he has received from taxpayers.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is factually incorrect.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I will make a seasonal suggestion. For the Christmas, he might buy a copy of Little Red Riding Hood. He will learn all he needs to know there about the economics of woodlands.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That concludes Leaders' Questions.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins A Cheann Comhairle, it is unacceptable that the Deputy Leader of the Government treats serious questions from Members on this side of the House with disdain.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I would appreciate Deputies' co-operation. I take this opportunity to wish all Members, their families and friends a very happy Christmas and a prosperous 2013.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I extend similar good wishes to all staff members in whatever capacity they serve and thank them for the courtesy extended to all of us during 2012.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I also extend good wishes to our friends in the media, who sometimes give me a bit of a rough time. They will be pleased to hear that I do not hold any grudges against people. I wish everybody working in the media a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. Finally, I thank Members for their co-operation during 2012. To those with whom I might have had a misunderstanding during the year - if I was in the wrong, I apologise; if I was in the right, I hold no grudge. I look forward to working with all of them in 2013.


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