Fianna Fáil TD, John McGuinness, has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, to appoint independent investigators to examine complaints made against Coillte. McGuinness raised the issue in a parliamentary question, asking the minister to clarify the government’s position on the dispute between Coillte and its forestry partners regarding the terms of the agreement with each landowner and the implementation of a forest management plan. He also requested that the comptroller and auditor general, or an outside competent body, examine the accounts of Coillte and its corporate governance structures.
Minister McConalogue responded by stating that Coillte is a private commercial company established under the Forestry Act, 1988. He explained that day-to-day operational matters, including the Coillte Farm Partnership Scheme, are the responsibility of the company. McConalogue highlighted that Coillte currently has a farm partnership portfolio consisting of 644 partnerships, covering over 12,000 hectares of highly productive forests. He emphasized that the majority of these partnerships are functioning well and that Coillte works with all its farm partners to address any issues that may arise.
However, the minister acknowledged that a small number of farm partners have raised concerns, such as poor communication and transparency of information. He assured McGuinness that Coillte has made efforts to improve engagement and address these concerns. McConalogue also confirmed that a small number of farm partners have submitted to arbitration, which is the dispute mechanism outlined in the contract agreements. He expressed Coillte’s concerns about the prolonged nature and cost of the arbitration process, but noted that the progress of arbitration depends on the legal representatives of both parties.
According to McConalogue, Coillte recently communicated further improvements around engagement and data sharing to each farm partner. He expressed confidence that any issues will be resolved through the appropriate channels and that it is now up to the partners in the agreements to work together to resolve them.