Sinn Féin TD for Meath East and the party’s spokesperson on Environment, Darren O’Rourke, has called on government to instruct Coillte to stop the proposed joint venture between Coillte and the British asset management company, Gresham House.Calling on the government to ensure that state funds are not used to facilitate the proposed ‘land-grab’, he says the deal is bad for the environment, the economy and for local communities and will have direct implications in Co. Meath. He told Meath Live, “I have repeatedly stated that if we fail on forestry then we will fail on Climate Action. And, this government is drastically failing. “The Programme for Government sets out an annual target of 8,000 hectares of new afforestation. Instead, this government has overseen the near entire collapse of Irish forestry. We are now planting less forestry than we were during the 2nd world war. “Under a Fianna Fáil Minister and a Green Party Minister of State, Forestry outputs have got worse since this government came to office, rather than better. “Rather than engage with the forestry and timber sector, with farmers and local communities to address the core issues that have led to the current dysfunction, Ministers have organised photo-calls and press conferences and commissioned report after report. All the while, the crisis in forestry has intensified. “Now, in an all-too-familiar story, the answer of this government appears to be to facilitate the sale of thousands of hectares of Irish land to a British investment vehicle. “We are told that the Green Party Minister of State knew as far back as March 2021 of Coillte plans to use such a private vehicle to acquire lands. “Yet, following the recent formal announcement by Coillte of their proposed arrangement with the Gresham House Fund, Ministers have pretended that they are somehow observers. “But the Minister for Agriculture is the shareholder, on behalf of the Irish people, in Coillte. He can, and he should, instruct Coillte to immediately stall this plan. “And government can and should state categorically that will not permit the use of €2 billion of Irish taxpayers money to be used to facilitate this land-grab. “The joint venture is not about Climate, it’s not even about forestry, Gresham House has confirmed that 8,000 hectares of their Irish portfolio will be existing forestry land, as little as 3,000 hectares will bare land for new tree-planting. For Gresham House, this venture is simply about corporate profit. “It is a typical approach, that especially sums up the Green Party in government. An approach that points the finger at ordinary workers, families and communities while government fail to reach a single climate objective they, themselves, have set. “A good forestry policy is one that delivers for the environment, delivers for communities and delivers for local economies. “The Coillte joint venture with Gresham House will deliver in none of those areas, just as this government have delivered in none of those areas. “The government must intervene to stop this scandalous venture immediately.