EIB targeting Irish regions for unsustainable corporate forestry policy – Matt Carthy MEP
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has received confirmation from the European Investment Bank (EIB) that multimillion loan scheme for foreign corporate investors in forestry is targeting the North West and South West regions of Ireland.
Last year the EIB announced a new initiative with the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to provide €112m worth of low-cost loans to investors looking to plant forests in Ireland. The scheme is not open to farmers, and is being run by a Finnish capital investment firm, Dasos, primarily to the advantage of foreign investors such as pension firms.
Speaking following receipt of new information this week, Carthy said:
“The EIB has this week confirmed to me that while their own policies dictate that their funds (€28.5m) may not be used to help foreign capital investors purchase local lands, the partnership they have created with the ISIF (€55m) and Dasos has created a legal vehicle to do just that.
“The letter also confirms that the focus of this investment fund is the North West and South West of the country, where there is already a very high concentration of forestry. The forestry industry is already more than profitable on its own without the need for a state funded loan scheme. There have been no accompanying plans to create jobs from this new industry, nor any accompanying commitments from the EIB/ISIF/Dasos partnership to plant native species or encourage continuous cover.
“As I have argued before, the EIB need to provide more transparency about what is going on with this loan scheme. They have again refused to provide me with information about the profile of investors, how much money has already been released, the size of the envelopes, and the specific areas that the loans are being sought in respect of.
“West of Ireland communities such as those in Co. Leitrim have witnessed a gradual spread of tall, dark and impenetrable Sitka Spruce across the region over the past few years. The latest National Forestry Inventory now puts Leitrim with the highest percentage of overall forest cover at 18.9%, with a vast majority of non-native species.
“The withdrawal of public services and under-investment in jobs and infrastructure, coupled with this policy of unbridled forestry expansion has left many communities in these regions despairing for their future.
“It is imperative that local communities know what to expect from this fund. Does the Government really expect them to sit back and watch while land all around turns over into the hands of foreign multinationals through a policy that delivers minimal in terms of environmental benefit?
“For my part I will work alongside my Sinn Féin colleagues and the communities affected to deliver a sustainable forestry policy which ensures that partnerships of this kind are held accountable”.