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 Header Item Defence Forces (Evidence) Bill 2019: Second Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Forestry Sector: Motion [Private Members]

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 987 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe] In addition, and due to the nature of an intimate sample, the consent of the person in service custody must be obtained before any such sample is taken. Section 13 of the Bill deals with the inferences that a court martial may draw from a refusal to consent or a withdrawal of consent to the taking of an intimate sample. There are similar provisions in the Act of 2014.

Section 15 allows for the use of reasonable force in the taking of a non-intimate sample. However, the use of this power is subject to a number of safeguards as specified in this section. Specifically, the use of reasonable force must be authorised by a member of the military police not below the rank of commandant. In addition, the taking of a sample pursuant to this section must be recorded by electronic or similar means. All of the provisions of this Part are similar to the equivalent provisions in the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014.

Part 3 provides for the taking, by the military police, of samples from Defence Forces personnel and other persons to ascertain whether such persons have contaminated a crime scene sample. This is a necessary power to ensure that the military police can carry out investigations in an effective manner. Again, the wording of this Part is based on similar provisions in the Act of 2014.

Part 4 provides that the military police may request a person to allow a DNA sample to be taken from him or her for the purpose of generating a DNA profile with regard to the investigation of a particular offence against military law. In this context, a volunteer may include a person who is a victim, or reasonably considered to be a victim, of the alleged offence which is being investigated by the military police. The taking of a sample under this Part is subject to a number of safeguards, including a requirement to obtain the written consent of the volunteer. In addition, where a person subject to military law refuses to give consent to the taking of a sample, that refusal shall not of itself constitute reasonable cause for a member of the military police to suspect that person of committing the offence concerned for the purpose of arresting and placing that person in service custody. As before, the provisions in this Part of the Bill are similar to equivalent provisions contained in the Act of 2014.

Part 5 provides for the establishment by the director of Forensic Science Ireland, FSI, of a DNA database system. The system, which will be similar to the DNA database system established under the Act of 2014, will be used to contain DNA profiles generated from DNA samples taken under this Bill. The Part details the structure of the DNA database system, such as the various indexes which will be contained within the system. Section 26 specifies the purposes for which the DNA database system may be used. These are the investigation and prosecution of offences against military law, whether committed within or outside the State. Section 30 sets out in detail the functions of the director of the FSI arising under this Part. Finally, as regards this Part, section 32 outlines the various comparisons that may be carried out by the director of the FSI using DNA profiles entered onto the DNA database system, including comparisons with DNA profiles entered on the DNA database system established under the Act of 2014. This is an important provision which will be of major assistance to the military police in its investigations.

Part 6 outlines the powers of members of military police in respect of the collection of evidence other than evidence collected under Part 2 of this Bill for the purposes of DNA testing, from a person arrested by the military police and placed in service custody. Section 34 sets out the powers that may be exercised by a member of the military police under this Part when a person is placed in service custody. However, with the exception of the power to demand a person's official details and to search him or her, the other powers may only be exercised on the authorisation of a member of the military police not below the rank of captain. The section also provides that a member of the military police may seize and retain for testing anything that the arrested person has in his or her possession.

Debate adjourned.

Forestry Sector: Motion [Private Members]

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I move:

That Dáil Éireann:
— that Ireland has the second lowest forest cover in the European Union (EU) at 11 per cent, compared to a European average of 30 per cent and that the majority of the forests are monocultures;

— that the State forestry policy has been predominantly based on a rotation, clear-fell and replant cycle using monoculture;

— that the extent of hedgerows declined massively during the 20th century but has since recovered slightly;

— that having started from a forest cover of 1 per cent in 1923, the State and the forestry industry has grown substantially, and afforestation has brought major positive benefits including the development of a forestry sector and forest products industry that currently employs 12,000 people;

— that aspects of the current afforestation model, in particular the emphasis on largescale monoculture have, in some cases, had negative impacts on local communities, biodiversity, water quality and landscapes;

— that in the light of the need to address the challenges of the climate and biodiversity emergency, now is the time to move to the next stage in Irish forestry;

— that it is desirable for the forestry system to provide a range of services in a way which strengthens local communities, provides employment for a new generation of foresters and access for the public to more varied woodlands, which are rich in biodiversity;

— that there is a potential for higher value, higher quality wood products from Irish forests, including a potential for long-lasting products as low carbon inputs for construction and other sectors and as stores of sequestered carbon for the lifetime of the buildings and products;

— the declining populations in certain rural areas, the high average age of farmers, and the developing crisis in Irish agriculture; and

— the inappropriate nature of current land use in many parts of Ireland, including the inability to make a living from current farming models and the difficulty for young people who might want to work on the land to get access to land which they do not directly inherit;
— the impacts of biodiversity loss and the loss of ecosystem services, and the consequent economic losses and risks we face globally and in Ireland;

— the gravity of the global biodiversity crisis, including the loss of species, the loss of important populations of species and the undermining of ecosystem services;

— the vital role of land use in the hydrological cycle, managing flooding and drought, maintaining water quality and dealing with pollution and the role which changed land use practices must play in meeting the objectives of improving water quality in line with the EU Water Framework Directive;

— the vulnerability of even-aged monoculture plantations, e.g. to disease, fire and windthrow, especially given the increasing dangers of climate change;

— the role which changed land use practices must play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in sequestering and storing carbon, and in providing resilience to the effects of climate change;

— the essential role that afforestation, land use and soil carbon management must play in Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) 2021-2030, which is to be drafted by the end of this year; and

— the commitments Ireland has entered into, in the context of the Natura 2000 network and the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to protect habitats and species, and the fact that Ireland is failing to meet those commitments and that biodiversity loss is continuing, as demonstrated in Ireland’s reports under Article 16 of the EU Birds and Habitats Directive;
— that Ireland was once covered by great forests and that our mild climate and the influence of the Gulf Stream make for one of the best habitats for trees in the world;

— that the Irish population wants to spend more time in nature and the public health benefits of enabling them to do so;

— the economic value of ecotourism and associated economic activities; and

— that the success of rewilding initiatives in other countries, and the plans for a recognised wilderness area in the Nephin range, as well as Coillte’s recent recognition of the amenity value of forestry in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains; and
calls on the Government to:
— make a fundamental change in forestry policy away from a narrow vision of 30 year cycle to a permanent woodland approach that would provide greater and more diverse social, environmental and economic benefits to society as a whole;

— move away from large-scale monoculture of fast-growing species such as Sitka spruce on ‘marginal land’ towards mixed, diverse forestry, with a wider range of forest types (short rotation, longer rotations, agroforestry, semi-wild) delivering a range of services and benefits and forest products;

— rebalance the premiums and payments made for planting and thinning to support this strategic change in Irish forestry;

— start the restoration of large areas of natural woodlands, formerly the dominant terrestrial ecosystems of Ireland, including the productive use of much of them through a system of continuous cover and close to nature forestry;

— begin a national programme of transformation of existing young, even-aged monoculture forests to continuous cover forestry;

— implement the recommendation of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action, accepted and endorsed by the Dáil on 9th May, for a review of land use to inform a national land use plan;

— establish a system of local forestry plans, developed in an open participative process including all parts of civil society, in each county, informed by the national land-use plan, which would form the framework for Government support for small-scale afforestation in the county;

— use Strategic Environmental Assessment to develop these local forestry plans, to ensure the meeting of objectives, including carbon sequestration, water quality and hydrology, biodiversity protection and restoration, landscape and public amenity;

— provide for these local forestry plans to include financial support for small-scale afforestation with mixed woodland with a high proportion of native species in all parts of the country;

— provide budgetary support to enable every registered farm holding to plant a hectare of natural woodland on their land within the next five years, on agreed sites within the farm which minimise the effect on farm operations and maximise the biodiversity and ecosystem service benefits;

— develop opportunities for community ownership of and community investment in afforestation within national forestry policy and local forestry plans;

— reorient national supports and incentives for afforestation in line with the local forestry plans in the direction of forestry closer to nature;

— provide better support for the restoration and planting of new hedgerows to provide biodiversity corridors, carbon shelters and nutrients in our agricultural system;

— engage local authorities and local communities in a radical expansion of urban tree planting and neighbourhood and community forests and for urban trees and forests;

— resource the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD) and forestry non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at a level appropriate for them to carry out all of their functions and develop new areas of responsibility;

— review the objectives and legal structure of Coillte to establish a new mandate for the company which delivers multiple benefits from forestry, including environmental and community objectives as well as the production of high-quality timber;

— establish better educational infrastructure and funding to support apprenticeship programmes in forest management in line with the new forestry policy;

— increase investment in higher and further education and training as well as for the modernisation of equipment available for craft apprenticeship provision to conduct such a transformation of existing strands; and

— promote the use of high-quality wood materials in new building construction, including by amending building regulations, and to encourage Irish enterprise agencies to further support the development of local enterprises which develop a wide range of products to use natural wood material.

I will share time with Deputy Catherine Martin after 15 minutes. This motion is introduced as part of what I believe our response should be to the climate and biodiversity crisis this House declared before the summer break. Completely changing, upgrading, modernising and reinventing the model for forestry in Irish woodlands is the biggest way in which we can tackle the climate crisis. We need to suck carbon out of the atmosphere and the best solution technologically, economically and in a variety of ways is the planting and growing of trees. As we see in reports under Article 12 of the birds directive and Article 17 of the habitats directive - not Article 16, as cited in the motion - we are also in the middle of a biodiversity crisis. Changing the model of forestry is one of the best ways to address that crisis. I will set out the reasons for that view in my opening contribution.

  I move this motion while holding in high regard everyone in Irish forestry down through the years. They have achieved a transition in our country. At the foundation of the State only 1% of the country was covered in native forestry, mostly in very inaccessible locations. We have increased that to approximately 11%. That, however, is a fraction of the covered area in most European countries. The average European forest cover is approximately 30% of land area. We have significant room, particularly as a country with some of the best growing conditions for trees in the world, to increase that cover to help us tackle the climate crisis. How this is done will be critical in tackling the biodiversity crisis.

  I recognise the foresters who have worked in this industry over the years. They have done so with real intent and with proper motivation. They were engaged in a proper public service. We need to recognise a number of things, however. First, the level of afforestation carried on in the country has been declining dramatically for the last 25 years or so. In 1993 we were planting in the region of 23,000 ha of forest. Last year that was down to approximately 4,000 ha. There has been a continuous downward spiral over that 25-year period.

  There are 12,000 people working in this sector and they are critical to our rural areas and the country in general. While I recognise and appreciate the work of everyone who has been involved in the forestry sector I believe that, looking back, we do need to change. We have already changed but we should recognise that the change was a mistake. Much of our initial forestry, particularly State-planted forestry, was carried out on marginal uplands. These could be got at a low price, which may explain why they were chosen. These were not the right places to afforest. This choice had massive consequences with regard to the drainage of our soils, often in wet peatlands, and with regard to biodiversity loss in those areas. We often created forests that are relatively inaccessible, difficult to harvest, and not in the right place to gain the full benefit from them.

  The second thing we need to recognise is that the emphasis on plantations, particularly monocultural plantations, was also a mistake. I hope the Government recognises this but I fear its reported opposition to this motion shows it still does not. It was a mistake for a variety of reasons. The first is the loss of biodiversity it entailed. This is a complex issue. The science in this regard is interesting. It is very interesting to read, "The role of planted forests in the provision of habitat: an Irish perspective" by Cormac J. O’Callaghan, Sandra Irwin, Kenneth Byrne and John O’Halloran of University College Cork and University College Dublin. It sets out in great detail the complex interactions in these plantations. In some of these monoculture plantations some species have thrived. The red squirrel survives at the top of conifers in a way the grey squirrels cannot.

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