Right now, one of the
greatest frauds ever against the Irish people is being perpetrated by the Irish government. Our national forestry service,
organised through the publicly owned Coillte, is being set up for privatisation. Coillte is a commercially successful state
company. Coillte is a socially responsible enterprise; it is increasing an ecologically aware company; it is a company integrated
into life in every county in the country.
We are gathered here,
people from different backgrounds, to protest against the proposed privatisation of Coillte. We know that valuable state assets
should not be sold off to bankers and speculators because we do not forget that our present economic mess was caused by those
very same bankers and speculators. We are not convinced by Colm McCarthy and his Bord Snip report because we know his conclusions
were driven by ideology and not economics.
Today, in hundreds of
woodlands across Ireland, tens of thousands of people are out and about enjoying our publicly owned
forestry and forest parks. Some are having picnics, some are strolling along pathways; some are jogging and others are involved
in serious treks and hill-walking excursions.
The people in our woodland
today and every day range from toddler to pensioner; some are locals; some are internal tourists and many are visitors from
overseas. It is a social activity; it is a healthy activity; but it is also an economic activity. How many people are working
right now in coffee shops; in pubs and restaurants and hotels serving food and refreshment to some of the many thousands who
have been out and about enjoying the great outdoors. And all this is possible not because we have forestry – but because
we have publicly owned forestry which can look beyond the bottom line.
Tomorrow, Monday, marks
the traditional start of the working week. Tomorrow 1,000 Irish men and women will go into Coillte offices and depots to starts
their weeks work; tomorrow thousands of employees in subcontracting firms in logging; haulage, drainage and road-building
will start work knowing their wages are guaranteed by Coillte. Tomorrow 2,700 staff in large processing plants like Medite,
or in small local sawmills, and even in hurley making workshops will start work knowing that they have a guaranteed supply
and a guaranteed price for their raw material.
Sadly we all know that
if Coillte is sold, and becomes part of some giant multi-national forestry conglomerate, then these jobs are history. Our
timber will be chopped down and shipped out of the country to existing processing plants abroad. We know this will happen
because we have seen every last ounce of some of Europe’s lead and zinc mines scooped into huge trucks and exported
through the ports of Galway, Drogheda and Waterford.
This year marks the 110th
anniversary of the creation of the Irish Forestry Service. In that 110 year period, and despite many national and international
cataclysmic events, our Forestry Industry grew and developed. The fact that it is both a flourishing and sustainable industry
as well as being a vital social resource is a tribute to foresight, perseverance, patriotism and long-term national investment.
We cannot let this history,
this heritage, this industry, this resource be taken away from the Irish people. We in the Workers Party are convinced that
this battle can be won. A huge coalition of concerned citizens, of trade unionists, of working class people directly and indirectly
affected by Coillte can be built and is being built. We can win but only if we stay united, stay focussed, and refuse to be
fobbed off by platitudes.
Thank you for your attention.