Environment minister Eamon Ryan has said that the State should seek to change funding rules that prevent Coillte from accessing Department of Agriculture forestry payments.

The change to the State aid rules which govern how Government subsidies are distributed would need to be sought at EU level.

Minister Ryan suggested that he had been told by Coillte that these State aid rules currently prevent the agency from accessing forestry programme grants and annual planting payments.

His comments come after farming organisations hit out at Coillte’s plans to partner with UK-based investment fund Gresham House to help the fund acquire standing forestry and further lands suitable for planting.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio programme on Thursday morning, the minister stated that a rule change should be sought.

“My response to that [Coillte not being able to access State aid] is that we should change the rules,” Minister Ryan said.

“And look at other mechanisms where we, the public, can invest and own the land that new forest systems go into, but also that we change the type of forestry at the same time.

“It’s not just that we keep going with the clearfell monoculture model, we also need to invest in - critically - more biodiverse forests.

“Forests that actually aren’t following that model and that’s where I want the funding to go. That’s where I want the public investment to go,” he said.

Deer cull support

Minister Eamon Ryan referred to the size of the deer population as being a “serious issue” which could require a cull to solve.

The Green party leader also recognised that improvements should be made to deer control efforts for the benefit of biodiversity and that deer management would involve culls.

Wild goats can pose challenges to addressing biodiversity too, he said.

“We have a big issue in deer right across the country,” Minister Ryan continued.

“In restoring biodiversity, which is critically important, there is a major problem we have with, particularly, deer and goats grazing so that no young trees can grow.”

When told that managing the deer population would mean deer culls, Minister Ryan answered: “Yes.”

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