New planting decisions are urgent

Minister fails to take decisive step

Nov. 20, 2020

The McKinnon report was commissioned to help Ireland deliver on its afforestation potential and requirements. Since its publication, there has been some progress but nowhere near enough to actually drive the sector on - in fact, it is in more danger than ever, which includes the potential loss of a high proportion of the 12,000 jobs in rural communities that are employed within the sector.

Minister Hackett has stopped short from actually and actively pushing to get the McKinnon report implemented and rather, took the softer option of appointing Jo O'Hara as an advisor - The industry hopes this is not simply lip service and results will actually be delivered from this appointment - Ms O'Hara certainly has the credential to deliver. We will watch with interest.....

Press release from the DAFM Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has today announced the appointment of Ms. Jo O’Hara to advise her on implementation of the Mackinnon Report. This Report was commissioned by the Department to review the processes and procedures for forestry licensing in Ireland. Jo O’Hara was a British Forestry Commissioner, Chief Forester for Scotland and Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry, she is currently working as a private consultant in the UK.

Minister Hackett commented

“The Mackinnon report was commissioned to review our processes and procedures and ensure that collectively we are fit for purpose to deliver the ambitious targets for the forestry sector in Ireland. Its implementation is set out as a key forestry action in the Programme for Government and I am delighted to have Jo O’Hara on board to advise on this process. I met with Jo recently and was impressed with her enthusiasm for forestry and woodland creation. She understands the wide range of concerns here in Ireland in relation to forestry. Jo brings a wealth of experience from her time in Scotland not least in leading the implementing of the Scottish Mackinnon report.

The Minister added

“We have set Jo O’Hara an ambitious target of reporting back by end-February, with her advice on actions for the successful delivery of the ‘ways forward’ identified in Mackinnon. Forestry has enormous potential to deliver for climate, biodiversity and the rural economy and the implementation of this review will help to ensure that the licensing system can deliver on that future policy ambition, as well as assisting with the resolution of current issues. It must also, of course, maintain the integrity of the current licencing system and ensure continued compliance with all of our environmental obligations”.

The Minister concluded,

“I would encourage all stakeholders to take the time to read the Mackinnon report again as it contains a number of important recommendations, on which we all need to reflect. I would also encourage any interested stakeholders to engage with Jo O’Hara on her work. I have established a Forestry Policy Group, comprising a broad range of stakeholders, which will be actively involved in this process and which will have its first meeting next week. This is the group which will help to inform forest policy development in Ireland and it’s important also that they have the opportunity to engage with Jo O’Hara from the beginning of her appointment”.

On taking up the appointment Jo O’Hara said,

“I am delighted to have been appointed by the Minister to help with this vital work. Sustainable forestry clearly has an important role in realising the huge potential of Ireland’s land to support a productive, low-carbon and nature-rich economy, and I am glad to be able to share my experience in developing supportive systems and processes to achieve that. I look forward to engaging with the stakeholders in Ireland to meet the Minister’s ambitious target of advising on an implementation plan by end-February”

Note for Editors: The Terms of Reference for Jo O’Hara’s work are:

a. To advise the Minister on an Implementation Plan based on the Mackinnon report, setting out measurable and deliverable actions and timelines for their achievement;

b. To engage with all relevant stakeholders in the development of this Plan;

c. To submit her recommendations on an Implementation Plan to the Minister and the Forest Policy Group by end-February, 2021.

The Mackinnon report is published at: Review of the Appeal Process for Afforestation In Ireland - McKinnon 2019

Jo O’Hara was formerly Chief Executive of Scottish Forestry, a Forestry Commissioner and Head of Forestry Commission Scotland and is currently working as a consultant and non-executive Director. She is a qualified forestry and land use professional, with 30 years’ experience in operational and policy roles. During her time leading Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Forestry, she oversaw the development and introduction of a new forestry strategy, and a significant increase in sustainable woodland creation of all types and scales.