County Tipperary in general and the borders of Waterford is probably one of the most wooded areas in the country, South Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil. Opposing the sale of Coillte harvesting rights, he said the Comeragh Mountains, the Knockmealdown Mountains, the Galtees, the Glen of Aherlow, Glengarra Wood, Hollyford hills and a range of other areas are part and parcel of the people of south Tipperary and west Waterford. There was a major opportunity, not just for recreation or tourism, but for job creation in this area.
“We should use the woodlands and the forestry to create jobs because the private sector has not, is not and will not create the jobs we need,” he said. “The private enterprise is effectively on an investment strike. It is simply not in a position to create the jobs we need if the 430,000 people unemployed are to go back to work. Other countries have ensured job creation from forestry - up to ten times more than what we have created.”
Selling the harvesting rights was “madness on a number of counts”.
“There are a number of reports, of which Dr. Peter Bacon’s is only one,” he said. “Another came out yesterday from the Irish Timber Council which clearly showed that even on a very short term and short-sighted economic basis, there was no advantage to be gained in selling harvesting rights. As Dr. Bacon said, the case no longer stands up and cannot be justified. He said it would cost the State €1.3 billion, but the Minister has told us the most the State will get for these rights is approximately €500 million. The figures simply do not add up. A number of reports have stated this is the case; this confirms that what is being suggested is madness and the proposal should, therefore, be withdrawn.”
No plans to close rural transport programme - Kelly
There are no plans to abolish the rural transport programme, Minister of State Alan Kelly told the Dáil. On the contrary, he said the intention is to strengthen the programme by ensuring a more efficient delivery structure and maximising integration with other State transport services.
Answering questions in the Dáil Minister Kelly said his ambition is to ensure the programme and its services form a sustainable part of the public transport system in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to maintain and extend the rural transport programme along with other local transport services.
“The Government recognises that the rural transport programme plays a major role in combatting rural isolation and enhancing the mobility, accessibility and community participation of local people, particularly those at risk of social exclusion,” he said. “Therefore, I assure the House that any future delivery model for rural transport will continue to address the social inclusion objective.”
Since he became Minister of State with responsibility for public and commuter transport, he said he had initiated developments aimed at ensuring rural areas will have a more complete and cost-effective transport service that better meets the transport needs of all users.
“To this end, national responsibility for the integration of local and rural transport services, including the rural transport programme, has been assigned to the National Transport Authority since 1 April 2012, thereby putting such services in a broader transport context,” he said. “I also established the National Integrated Rural Transport Committee in April 2012, comprising key stakeholders and chaired by the National Transport Authority, NTA, to oversee and manage a partnership approach to implementing integrated local and rural transport. I am very conscious of the scope for and desirability of achieving greater levels of transport integration and co-ordinated delivery across a range of Exchequer-funded local and rural transport services, such as school and HSE transport services.”