A LOCAL politician’s claim that a Chinese investment bank and a subsidiary of a Swiss bank (IFS Asset Managers) chaired by Bertie Ahern have expressed an interest in purchasing the harvesting rights of Coillte, has been rubbished by an IFS director.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP), the Natural Resources Protection Alliance and the Woodland League, organised a Walk in the Woods which drew hundreds of participants to Ticknock to object to the sale of Coillte’s harvesting rights.
Deputy Boyd Barrett told The Gazette: “There are two potential buyers being mooted, the first is the Chinese State Investment Bank and the other is a subsidiary of Helvetia [Wealth] Bank called International Forest Fund [IFS Asset Managers based in Dun Laoghaire] of which, amazingly enough, Bertie Ahern is the chairman. So they have both expressed an interest in Coillte’s harvesting rights.”
However, Paul Bronson, director of IFS said: “IFS Asset Managers Limited has never expressed an interest in purchasing Coillte’s harvesting rights and has absolutely no interest in acquiring such rights in the future. To the best of our knowledge the harvesting rights to Coillte are not for sale and never have been and indeed never will be.”
Richard Boyd Barrett said: “Don’t forget that 40,000 acres of public forestry has already been sold off by Coillte over the years to banks. A consortium called Irish Forestry Unit Trust comprising Bank of Ireland Assets Management [Now trading as State Street Global Advisors], Allied Irish Bank and Irish Life.
“It’s mind boggling that the banks could end up owning the forests.
“I do think, though, that the government is addled by our demonstrations. First [Agriculture Minister] Simon Coveney (FG) wouldn’t respond to queries about selling the harvesting rights and then two days after our very successful Wicklow walk in Avondale, [Natural Resources Minister] Pat Rabitte (Lab) said the government was not sure about selling so they are feeling under pressure and therefore we have a real chance to stop them doing this.”
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte responded by saying: “Glad to hear of Deputy Boyd Barret’s walk in the woods. However on this issue he can’t see the wood for the trees.
“Deputy Boyd Barrett can continue walking in the woods confident that he can do so unimpeded. Conspiracy theories about companies chaired by Mr Ahern don’t arise.”
Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, Simon Coveney and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, were contacted for a response but had not commented.