MEP Matt Carthy has labelled a recent tour by Minister of State for Forestry Andrew Doyle in County Leitrim as “hypocritical” and a disgrace. Speaking from Brussels Carthy said:
“The Fine Gael Government have never prioritised balanced Rural Development. Furthermore, they have never shown the slightest ambition for a job creation strategy for the West of Ireland.
“There are a number of forestry dependent employers in Leitrim, and these jobs must be not only protected, but given the maximum level of support available. I commend all Small Business owners in the region who have made an effort to create sustainable jobs.
“However for the Minister to conduct a tour of businesses in Leitrim in the knowledge that Leitrim received zero IDA funding last year and had only one IDA organised site visit is hypocrisy at its worst.
“The truth of the matter is that job creation in this area is solely thanks to indigenous industries and individuals with a vision for the region.
“The Government was quick to set up a low-cost loan scheme to allow foreign investors to come in and buy up land for forestry on the cheap, however there was no accompanying scheme to ensure that these plantations brought employment to the region. What is this if not the highest level of hypocrisy?
“If the Government were genuinely serious about putting in place a forestry “value chain” then they wouldn’t be enabling vulture funds and pension firms to come in and take over land from local farmers, local forestry cooperatives and local communities.
“I ask the Minister, where is the end of his so-called “value-chain”? Is it in Leitrim? Or is it in the pockets of foreign investors such as Finnish Capital Investment firm Dasos?
“Let me repeat that it is an absolute disgrace that these foreign investors are receiving 100% exchequer funded forest premiums, while the Government has made absolutely no effort whatsoever to make sure that any of their investment actually stays in the region in the form of employment”.