Confirmation that there are approximately 4,500 forestry licence applications held up in a backlog on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s system reveals an attempt to mislead the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and the Marine, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency added that this vindicates his statement at the time that the number of appeals stuck in the backlog was over double the figure being quoted by Minister Pippa Hackett and her officials.

The minister and department officials appeared before the committee to discuss challenges facing the forestry sector – including Ash dieback and licensing issues – last Tuesday, November 17th.

Speaking on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “During the meeting, both Minister Hackett and department officials quoted a number of about 1,900 when asked how many licensing applications were stuck in the system.

“Having liaised with industry personnel and having made efforts to extrapolate figures from various department databases prior to the committee meeting, we had came up with a number of almost 4,000.

“Today’s damning revelation vindicates the points I made during the committee meeting and is evidence of complete incompetence within the department.

“It is clear that both the minister and the department officials misled the members of the Agriculture Committee by quoting the 1,900 figure.

“As well as this, there is other information which I have received days which points to further discrepancies compared to what we were told during the committee meeting.

“Over the coming days, I intend to inform the chair of the Oireachtas agriculture committee of the information which I have received.

“I can now see no other option only for the committee to recall Minister Hackett and the department officials before the agriculture committee, as someone needs to be held accountable for misleading the committee,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565

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