Dáil Éireann - Volume 296 - 10 February, 1977

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Forestry Workers.

23. Mr. Tunney asked the Minister for Fisheries the number of additional foresters employed during the years 1975 and 1976.

Mr. Donegan: The number of foresters recruited by my Department in 1975 was two and in 1976 was 16.

Mr. Tunney: Will the Minister state how these figures compare with recruitment four or five years ago?

Mr. Donegan: I have not got the figures but I can inform the Deputy of the situation in relation to a competition. The number of foresters coming forward to be recruited would be approximately eight to ten a year. A course that ended at a certain point distorted these statistics but the [1340] status quo was maintained. The number of forestors recruited in 1974 was two and in 1976 was 16, making a total of 18. The number needed is eight to ten.

Mr. Tunney: Will the Minister not accept that it is a frightening reflection on us that we recruited only two foresters in one year? Forestry should be a very large and important industry.

Mr. Donegan: I have told the Deputy the situation, that because of a change in the ending of a course the figures were distorted in respect of two years. The average for those two years was nine. If the course had ended on a different date, we would have had nine in each year. The Deputy is not being truthful if he is saying that this is something that reflects badly on the Department.

Mr. Tunney: Would the Minister accept that my record shows me to have the same respect for the truth as he has? I am not concerned with making cheap points. Is the Minister happy that we are only recruiting at the rate of nine per year for an industry that is considered to have outstanding potential?

Mr. Donegan: The forests were there and Governments came and went, and the Deputy's party were responsible for them for a long time. The rate of growth of a tree is a very slow business. The Deputy might look into his own eye before he finds the mote in mine.

Mr. Tunney: Is the Minister indicating that the extent of his interest in forestry is to look to the previous Government for an excuse for not recruiting more than two foresters?

Mr. Donegan: I have conceded the average of nine per year over two years. I am not happy, but I must accept the fact that trees do not grow instantly and that I must now play my cards on Fianna Fáil's performance over a long number of years.