Press Release

Friends of the Irish Environment

28 November 2016




The Minister for Agriculture has confirmed in a written Parliamentary Reply that the felling of 30 mature oak trees in a heritage woodland designated for protection in County Longford is to be investigated.


The oaks, between the ages of 60 and 80 years old, were specifically protected under instructions issued with a 2014 Felling Licence at Castleforbes, County Longford. The protection was imposed at the request of the National Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS] during the consultation period before the licence was issued.


The Minister for Agriculture denied on 10 November 2016 in a written Parliamentary Reply to Independent TD Clare Daly that he had any reports of Illegal Felling Activity at Castleforbes. However, after the Deputy provided reference numbers of Friends of the Irish Environment’s [FIE] complaint, he amended his reply on 24 November, stating that his officials did not view a May 2016 letter from the environmental organisation as a report of Illegal Felling Activity but that his Department was now investigating the matter.


A spokesman for FIE said the organisation had in fact first reported the illegal felling to the Minister on 18 April 2016. ‘We informed the Minister that the relevant ’licence allowed the taking only of ‘poor quality stems’ while we understand the activities included prime mature timber’. ‘To not view this letter as a report of Alleged Illegal Felling’ is inexplicable’, the spokesman said.


‘On 16 May FIE wrote again informing the Minister of the existence of a Report confirming the felling of mature specimen oaks at Castleforbes prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Report, prepared for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht in December 2015 was intended to inform a reply to a written Parliamentary Question from Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael TD James Bannon questioning the protection of this ancient woodland. The Report detailed the felling of oak, ash, and beech, stating “Most oak trees selected were between 60 and 80 years old, with the occasional older trees.” 


Yet the NPWS did not report the matter to the Forest Service and never informed Deputy Bannon of its contents.


The Minister also confirmed to Deputy Daly that sequoias [giant redwoods] up to 100 years old which the contractor had been instructed not to touch on 17 April 2016 had in fact been felled on 13 May 2016, stating that ‘the breach of this instruction is being raised with the Contractor.’


The environmental organisation said that ‘What went on at Castleforbes is a breakdown of the system of protection for ancient forests in Ireland, even though they may have the highest level of protection possible in national and European law. If these heritage woodlands cannot be protected, woe betide the rest of Ireland’s vanishing native woodlands.’




Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771 or 353 (0) 87 2176316



Full text of PQs



May 2016 FIE PR on Felling During Bird Breeding Season at Castleforbes


The Village Magazine: ‘Castleforboding’, November 2016





Over a Tiny Snail, Big Concerns

The vertigo angustior snail is only two millimeters long. But it punches above its weight.

The endangered little snail has helped stall Mr. Trump’s plans to build a sea wall to protect the coastline along his Trump International Golf Links course on the west coast of Ireland, in County Clare.

Environmentalists, as well as surfers, list a host of concerns about the proposed wall, particularly its potential impact on sand dunes. Along with the snails, a patch of the dunes near the course is protected by European Union rules. But Mr. Trump’s organization has said the golf resort development might be dead in the water without the sea wall, and many locals welcome the business and the jobs it brings.

The battle is likely to be decided next year in front of a national planning board, in the weeks or months after Mr. Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20, several people said.

The planning board was overhauled in the 1980s to insulate it from political meddling, and it now has the confidence of environmentalists. But there is little precedent for the Trump situation, which could involve a public hearing.

“They can be long, they can be lively, and a lot of things could be aired,” said Sean O’Leary, the executive director of the Irish Planning Institute, which represents the majority of the country’s professional planners.

He noted that the national planning board had considered a development proposed by a politician before, but that was a holiday home that the Irish president wanted to build.

“The scale is slightly different,” he said.

Local officials have said the Trump Organization needs to resubmit its application by the end of the year. In a statement, the Trump Organization said it was “considering all potential coastal protection options at present” and would be in contact with the local authority before Christmas. The snail, the statement said, “is thriving on the site.”

“Its only material threat is that presented by coastal erosion,” it added.

A video by the Trump Organization advertising its golf course in Scotland. YouTube

Certainly, Mr. Trump’s golf courses in Scotland and Ireland have remained at the fore in the president-elect’s mind, even in recent days. Shortly after his election, he urged a group of “Brexit” campaigners led by Nigel Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party, to fight against wind farms in Britain. Wind farms have been a favorite target of Mr. Trump’s in both Britain and Ireland, where he has railed against proposed installations as a potential blight on the views from his resorts.

After a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump initially denied that the matter had been raised with Mr. Farage’s group, Mr. Trump conceded during his interview with The Times this past week that “I might have brought it up.”

Tony Lowes, an activist who runs a group called Friends of the Irish Environment, said Mr. Trump had once called him because Mr. Lowes’s group also happened to oppose a proposed wind farm near Mr. Trump’s Irish course on environmental grounds.

“He certainly hates wind farms, that’s for sure,” Mr. Lowes said about the call.

His group decided against working with Mr. Trump, and is now a leading opponent of his planned sea wall.

“The dune system will not be able to develop naturally,” Mr. Lowes said. “It will be starved of the sand it needs to develop and evolve and it will die.” He added, “The whole system there is alive and mobile and moving, and the wall is intended to stop that.”

Mr. Trump’s representatives have advanced a number of rationales for the sea wall, with the most straightforward being that they simply want to buffer the land from a continuing erosion problem. The proposal has previously attracted attention because an environmental-impact statement submitted by Mr. Trump’s team highlighted the risks of climate change and its influence on “coastal erosion rates.” That was a noteworthy claim, since Mr. Trump has called global warming a hoax perpetrated “by and for the Chinese.”

The Irish government has zealously courted Mr. Trump. When he visited the course in 2014, he was greeted on the airport tarmac in Shannon with a red carpet, a harpist, a violinist and a singer whose voice cut through the runway clamor.

Malachy Clerkin of The Irish Times called it “a preposterous welcome” and “the worst kind of forelock-tugging.”

Many locals, however, support Mr. Trump’s development. Hugh McNally, the owner of Morrissey’s Bar in Doonbeg Village, about two miles from the course, said the issue had been “sensationalized by the media” because of the Trump connection.

“I’ll give you an example,” he said. Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, announced last year that it would close a plant in nearby Clarecastle, causing the loss of more than 200 jobs. “If someone told them you’d save those jobs by building any wall, everyone would do it,” he said. “The only reason people are objecting here is because of Trump.”


(c) New York Times 27.11.16



14 November, 2016


Lost Parliamentary Question reveals prohibited felling in ancient woodland


Oak trees between 60 and 80 years old ‘with the occasional older tree’ were felled at an estate in County Longford in 2015 in spite of a specific condition in the felling licence protecting the trees.


The information was contained in a Report prepared by the Parks and Wildlife Service to inform a reply to a written Parliamentary Question tabled on 1 December, 2015. The question, by then Longford/Westmeath TD James Bannon, FG, asked Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht ‘the action she will take to save the oak woodlands (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter.’ The Minister replied that ‘My Department is investigating this matter and I will write to the Deputy when I have received a report.’


The license, issued in 2014, was restricted to ‘firewood’. It identified approximately 30 mature oaks which were to be ‘left standing’, stating: ‘These trees are estimated to be approximately 70 years old and have developed well. The soils in this area are clearly capable of carrying deciduous trees. Replant area with native trees. Leave all Oak, Holly, and Rowan standing”.


The Report, dated 2 December 2015, confirmed the recent felling of the Oaks: “Most Oak trees selected were between 60-80 years old, with the occasional older tree”. The Deputy never received a reply.


The Report emerged during an investigation by Friends of the Irish Environment into felling at the Estate during the closed season for breeding birds this spring.


‘Further felling of mature sequoias – California redwoods – took place in May of this year in spite of specific assurances from the contractor to the Forest Service that these noble trees would ‘not be felled’, according to records released to Friends of the Irish Environment. FIE has posted pictures of both the felled oaks and the felled redwoods on their FaceBook page and website.


The Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaelteacta, Heather Humphries responded to parliamentary questions last Thursday November 10, stating that ‘it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts.’


According to FIE Director Tony Lowes, who has written about the case in the current issue of the ‘Village’ magazine, the files ‘scream systems failure. The Minister’s officials failed to provide the Report to the Deputy for his constituents and failed to contact the Minister for Agriculture, whose Forest Service is the relevant licensing authority.’


The Minister for Agriculture has failed to date to answer questions about the felling submitted by Deputy Clare Daly at the same time, Mr. Lowes said.


Further Information: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316




Photographs of sequoia felled


Minister Heather Humphries Parliamentary Reply 10 November 2016

[Includes questions unanswered  to date for the Minister for Agriculture]


The Village Magazine: ‘Castleforboding’, November 2016


May 2016 FIE PR on Felling During Bird Breeding Season at Castleforbes



System failures

Failure of Minister for AHG and her National Parks and Wildlife Service 

to undertake a survey required as a condition of a felling licence

to return to the Forest Service a proposed felling licence in a protected area without ensuring prohibition on felling during the breeding season

to act on Report provided in response to Parliamentary Question revealing felling of protected oaks

to liaise with Forest Service when aware of felling of trees protected in the licence conditions


Failure of Minister for Agriculture’s Forest Service

To ensure compliance with conditions protecting specific trees in a licence

To provide NPWS with a copy of a licence for comment

To ensure compliance with undertakings by a licence holder to protect specific trees


Failure of the State

To provide the Minister AHG the legal means to ensure implementation of the protection required under the Habitats Directive

To provide the Minister AHG the resources to carry out surveys as required under Forestry Licences



The Department of Agriculture has confirmed to Shannonside FM that it is examining if there has been any breach of conditions of tree felling at Rawdon Estate in County Longford.

An environmental group alleges a suppressed report from the National Parks and Wildlife service states that oak trees, some up to 80 years of age were felled last year, which was in contravention of the license granted for the cutting of trees in the area.

Friends of the Irish Environment allege that further tree felling took place at the same estate this Spring in contravention of the three licenses granted in 2014.

The matter was raised in the Dail last week and the Minister for Arts, Heather Humphreys, explained that it would be the forestry service which would determine if any action needs to be taken over any breaches of the license.


Tony Lowes, of the Environmental group, told Shannonside FM they while they welcome the response from the Department of Agriculture, they cannot understand how a report into serious allegations was not passed to the relevant authorities.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 at 3:30 pm.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has unanimously rejected a complaint by Friends of the Irish Environment against RTE’s Prime Time for failing to show the presence of the Minister for Finance at the red carpet greeting at Shannon Airport for Donald Trump in 2014.


In the complaint, lodged against the programme about the developer’s proposed sea wall at Doonbeg County Clare aired on Prime Time on 31 March, 2016, FIE said Prime Time concealed from its audience the relationship between the Minister for Finance and one of the world's wealthiest businessmen.


FIE held that by excising the Minister for Finance from the greeting, Prime Time undermined the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s [BAI] Code of Program Standards principle of public interest “that animates broadcasting and serves a democratic society”. 


The Minister for Finance also met with Trump’s son and daughter, Directors of the Doonbeg Trump International Resort, at the airport. Shannon Airport has refused to release any photographs of the event.


The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland concluded on 13 October 2016 that ‘nothing was omitted from the report which had a bearing on the debate on the planning proposals for the links and hotel.’


Trump was served with a Warning Notice by Clare County Council only three months before this event for his unauthorised attempt to build the sea wall.


‘While noting that the footage did not include any images depicting the greeting of Mr. Trump by the Minister for Finance, Mr. Michael Noonan, TD,’ BAI wrote, ‘it was the Committee’s view that the exclusion did not raise issues containing to fairness, objectivity or impartiality in news and current affairs or the public interest.’


‘Broadcasters as independent media organisations have appropriate freedom to decide the editorial approach to be taken to a subject matter’, they wrote. ‘While noting that the greeting of Mr. Trump by the Minister for Finance in 2014 was a matter of controversy, the focus of the programme broadcast in 2016 was the potential impact of the proposed sea wall and not the relationship between Irish business, the Irish State, and foreign investment. In that context, it is the Committee’s view that the exclusion of footage of Minister Noonan meeting Mr. Trump did not give rise to any issues provided for in BAI’s codes or the Broadcasting Act.’


A statement from FIE said: ‘Whether it was correct or not for the Minister to meet with a developer who had been served a Warning Letter by the local authority and was in legal correspondence with them is a matter for debate.’


‘But what is indisputable is that the public has the right to know when Ministers meet with developers. The BAI Code speaks of the “genuine interests of citizens and others who live in this state; their capacity fully to understand the way in which public life is conducted; and their entitlement to the fullest range of information to assist them in their choices and decisions they will make in their lives and the in the conduct of our democracy.”


‘RTE in fact denied us our entitlement to the fullest range of information about the conduct of our democracy and deliberately undermined the public’s ability to fully understand the way in which public life is being conducted in Ireland.’




Verification: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771   / 353 (0)87 2176316


Decision letter


BAI Complaint Decisions 27 October 2016 [Full History]


44,000 people have visited our explanatory video of Trumps proposed wall at Doonbeg over the summer. Why don’t you?



From Tomorrow 1 November

‘Hear The One About Donald Trump Losing a Campaign To a Snail’

Walking The Earth is a literary expedition designed to share extraordinary places and people on our planet that are worth protecting and supporting. Each story centers around walking as a human activity that has linked people and places throughout time across the globe around the world.




Photo: Limerick Leader Saturday, May 17, 2014


Photo: Sean Curtan