Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (1003)

John Paul Phelan


1003. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has given or will give consideration to the issue of wholescale regulatory reform in view of the current crisis facing the forest and timber industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6769/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Forestry Act 2014 and the supplemental Forestry Regulation 2017 (SI No. 191 of 2017), is the primary legislative framework for supporting the development and promotion of forestry in Ireland.

The regulatory provisions, in particular those for the licensing of certain forestry operations, give effect domestically to the requirements of EU environmental law, environmental policy that falls within the scope of EU law, and the four environmental principles that inform those frameworks. Although not an exclusive list this includes the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, the Water Framework Directive, and the Dangerous Substances Directive, as well as the prevention principle, which aims to prevent environmental damage rather than to react to it; and the rectification at source principle, which seeks to prevent pollution at its source rather than remedy its effects.

In addition to the obligation on the Department to comply with these statutory provisions, the manner in which it does so in terms of the Appropriate Assessment (AA) process must also accord with the relevant Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decisions and their subsequent application in the national courts and the Forestry Appeals Committee.

Whilst the Mackinnon Report did suggest a comprehensive review of the Act and Regulations with a view to reducing the amount of detailed process which is described in statute, it remains the case that in deciding on early appeals made to it, the Forestry Appeals Committee found the Department’s previous AA process required changes and the revised and more comprehensive procedures subsequently introduced are now proving to be more acceptable to that body.

There are other suggestions for reform contained in the Mackinnon Report. Ms Jo O'Hara has been commissioned to advise on the implementation plan for the Mackinnon Report and her report is expected shortly. Any proposals for regulatory reform will need to respect and be compatible with requirements of relevant EU and national law, as well as consistent with State’s other international law commitments.