Speech on Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
25 September 2020
The Minister of State is very welcome to the House. It is a pleasure to have a Minister of State appointed from the Seanad. I have listened with great interest to the debate. I do not wish to prolong matters this late in the evening, and my colleague, Senator Hoey, has admirably put forward the Labour position on the Bill. Looking at this very substantive group of amendments, and in particular the amendments Senator Higgins debated, amendment No. 57 and related amendments, it illustrates how unfortunate it is that we have seen the Bill rushed through with such tight timing and without the adequate time we should be able to give to debate these very important principles. I know that many others, like myself, were contacted late last week by the Irish Environmental Network and other non-governmental organisations. In recent days these organisations have expressed real frustration at the lateness with which the Bill text was produced and expressed concerns about aspects of it. These concerns and the very real issues that have been raised deserve far more time than we can give in this truncated, rushed debate on a Friday, with Committee and Report Stages taken together. I know that that point has been made quite a number of times, but looking particularly at amendment No. 57 and the very important issues that have been set out by Senators Higgins and Boyhan in the amendment, which we in the Labour group support, we see the importance of specifying what issues the Minister should have regard to, such as a just transition, which is so crucial, the sustainable development goals and so on. Senator Higgins has tabled variations of the amendment, and I urge the Minister of State to at least take on board one of the variations and the sentiments and very sincere reasoning behind them in light of the rushed nature of the debate. We should at least have been able to put something in the Bill that would specify these priorities.