Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
649. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of appeals the Forestry Appeals Committee is dealing with on a weekly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44484/20]
650. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason divisions 2, 3 and 4 of the Forestry Appeals Committee are sitting only one day per week, given the urgent nature of the crisis in the forestry and timber industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44486/20]
The Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) is independent in the performance of its functions and scheduling of appeal hearings is a matter for the Chairman of the FAC. It is important that the Forestry Appeal Committee (FAC) operates with complete independence and I am informed that when scheduling appeal hearings a number of issues must be taken into consideration. Up to 9th November 2020, only one Committee was hearing appeals. With the introduction of the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, sub-divisions of the Forestry Appeals Committee were established and a number of new appointments were made to the Committee. Since 9th November 2020, there are four Committees hearing both oral and non-oral appeals.
At present, one Committee sits two days per week and the remaining three Committees sit one day each per week. This means they process approximately 22 hearings per week. Due to there being a significant number of new appointees to the Forestry Appeals Committee, some members sit on more than one Committee per week to ensure that all Committees are operating to the same high standard and to ensure consistency in decision-making among the sub-Divisions of the FAC.
Furthermore, consideration must also be given to the appellants and, as the majority of appeals, are submitted by a small number of appellants, it would not be possible at present for the Forestry Appeal Committee to schedule oral hearing appeals on multiple days per week as this could negatively impact the appellants as they may not be in a position to attend all oral hearings.
I understand that the FAC is currently considering plans to have all Committees sit more than one day per week once the issues identified above have been satisfactorily resolved.