As here in England we struggle to maintain public ownership of what little forest remains in public hands, in Ireland a storm is growing as their forests too come under threat. Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern is now chairman of a Swiss-based finance company, the International Forestry Fund, that is rumoured to be interested in snapping up Ireland’s equivalent of the Forestry Commission, which is severely in debt. If this happens 7% of Ireland’s total land mass will fall out of public ownership.
The Woodland League has organised a petition. They write:
The Irish Government is moving closer to a huge sell-off of the public forests, currently managed by Coillte (The Irish Forestry Board), to private investors. An area greater than 1 million acres, equivalent to two medium sized counties, will be lost forever. This will include some of our most valuable native woodlands, wild places and some of the last refuges of our native flora and fauna.
Interest has been expressed by Swiss finance company Helvetia Wealth – who own the International Forestry Fund (IFF) – chaired by Bertie Ahern, (ex-prime minister of Ireland) as well as The China Investment Corporation.
Please sign this petition now to tell the Irish Government that Ireland’s Forests are not for sale. These forests are the inheritance of the Irish children and managed wisely can help secure Ireland’s social, environmental and economic future. A strong show of support, asserting our rightful ownership of the public forests will make all the difference. You can sign it wherever you are. Go to Petition.
As I looked into this I went to the site of the International Forestry Fund. I’ve visited the websites of MI6, MI5 and the CIA, but this is the only site I’ve been to which blocks my view of its front page with a demand that I agree to a set of Terms & Conditions before I can look at its front page! Trying clicking ‘Disagree’ and you find yourself bounced to a different site.Here’s a quote from it:
Press Release Helvetia Wealth AG, November 26, 2009
Dublin / Zurich: The International Forestry Fund – a joint venture of the I.F.S. Asset Managers Ltd and Helvetia Wealth AG of Switzerland – today announced that the former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will become Chairman of the fund as of January 1, 2010. The International Forestry Fund, created in March 2009, is offering the opportunity of direct forestry investment to institutional investors. The Fund invests in forestry in Ireland, the UK, and Central America, growing a mixture of species ranging from spruce and pine in Europe to tropical timbers such as teak, mahogany, and rosewood.
So have I got this right? The previous Prime Minister of Ireland is now head of a Swiss-based company that might buy up 7% of the countryside he used to govern? See Irish Sunday Tribune article.