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Laois TD among group describing An Taisce as a ‘leading threat to future of Rural Ireland’

Laois TD Charlie Flanagan is among a group of Fine Gael politicians who have lambasted An Taisce.

An Taisce is a charity that works to promote environmental awareness and action in the context of the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

Four Fine Gael TDs – all former Ministers – and two Senators have strongly criticised the group for appealing a High Court decision to grant planning permission for a €140m cheese plant on the Kilkenny/Waterford border.

Deputies Charlie Flanagan, Paul Kehoe (Wexford), John Paul Phelan (Carlow Kilkenny) and David Stanton (Cork East) and Senators Garret Ahearn (Tipperary) and John Cummins (Waterford) said it is not too late for An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland – to withdraw their appeal.

In a statement from the six Fine Gael Oireachtas members say:  “Glanbia’s proposed investment at Belview is a joint venture with a Dutch firm specialising in cheesemaking.

“This notice to appeal the decision made by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanala and now the High Court doesn’t cast Ireland in a good light locally, regionally or internationally – particularly at a time when we urgently need foreign direct investment and sustainable, well-paying jobs in our rural economy.

“How An Taisce (funded by the taxpayer) are taking the planning system and Government policy to a second court is beyond comprehension, as is how they are also objecting to housing, and forestry up and down the country.

“Timber supplies nation-wide are running critically low as a direct consequence of this, with direct impacts now evident across the construction sector.

“In taking this further appeal An Taisce is alienating the main group involved in environmental protection across Ireland – our farmers and their families.

“The government must now look again at An Taisce being funded by the taxpayer, its consistent opposition of government policy and possibly their special status under the planning acts.

“The actions of An Taisce and the environmental lobby withdrawal from the 2030 food strategy illustrates their unwillingness to find compromise or to work with farmers to find realistic solutions.

“This small cohort has been allowed to hijack an entire industry. Which sector is next?

“They’re alienating the profession which has the most influence over the environment they claim they are protecting.

“It’s not too late for An Taisce to withdraw their latest appeal and to work with the planning system, rather than constantly against it. Surely a constructive conversation around a table could iron out with Glanbia and its partner any outstanding concerns.

“This is a major blow to the thousands of dairy farmers supplying Glanbia. They’re already facing supply restrictions from next year following the delay in developing this plant and a subsequent surplus of milk in the system.

“This appeal is a massive blow to the entire workforce at the company and it must put in jeopardy a much-needed project that would create hundreds of jobs in a part of Ireland which has struggled and consistently lagged behind over the past decade.

“An Taisce claims in its statement that it is appealing “in the public interest” and also that it is taking this recourse “to promote human and ecosystem wellbeing and resilience for the benefit of the nation”.

“The farmers of the South-East region and beyond have proven themselves to work with nature rather than against it and to be exceptionally responsible in this regard.

“The only interests An Taisce seems hell bent on safeguarding are those of a chosen few driving what seems to be a very personal vendetta against farmers, the rural economy and a company like Glanbia which has a century-old cooperative roots in every town and village in this region.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.