Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy visited Co. Leitrim on Monday, 29 January to meet various groups and individuals.
Carthy met local representatives of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) in Ballinamore, where he heard of the growing concern at the impact afforestation and the impact on farmers and the wider community.
The Midlands North West MEP then viewed for himself plantations in the Corraleehan area and heard of the problems of farmers unable to acquire land to make their farms viable while residents feel overshadowed and surrounded by Sitka Spruce afforestation.
In Mohill, he met with Western Forestry Co-Op representatives who outlined their vision for forestry in Leitrim.
Commenting on the issue Carthy said:
“There are deep and growing concerns right across Leitrim about the severe and negative impact of sitka spruce afforestation.
“A Government established, low-cost loan scheme allows foreign investors to buy up land in Leitrim for forestry without any accompanying scheme to ensure plantations bring employment or other benefits to the county.
“Vulture funds and pension firms are taking over land from local farmers, local forestry cooperatives and communities. This is unfair and unjust and is detrimental to community life, sustainable farming and tourism.
“Investors are receiving 100% exchequer-funded forest premiums, while the Government has made absolutely no effort to make sure their investment stays in the County.
“This untrammelled planting of Co. Leitrim risks pushing the local people off the land and out of the county. It risks making the county uninhabitable, killing local villages and towns and destroying the social fabric of this wonderful county.
“The environmental and social concerns can no longer be avoided and I will be consulting with my party colleague and Sligo/Leitrim TD Martin Kenny and others about how this situation can be addressed at a national level.”
While in Leitrim, Carthy also met the James Gralton Memorial Committee. to hear of efforts to preserve and restore the homestead of the socialist republican figure who was the only Irish person deported from their own country, and who is the central character in the film Jimmy’s Hall by Ken Loach.
He offered the group his full support, saying:
“I want to commend the work of the Gralton Memorial Committee in keeping alive the memory of Jimmy Gralton and the principles of social justice and liberty for which he sacrificed so much. Jimmy’s home place should not be allowed to disappear and should be preserved as an educational, community resource and I will work with the committee to ensure that their visions for the site are realised.”