27 Jun 2022

Offaly environmental campaigner hits out at council

“When you destroy ecosystems animals get closer and closer to humans and viruses are more easily transmitted from animals to humans.”

Offaly environmental campaigner hits out at council

Tom Roche says this seat is made from tropical hardwood

AN Offaly environmental campaigner has hit out at the County Council for using tropical timber from west Africa in Tullamore's main square.

Tullamore man Tom Roche said local wood could have been used for the new seating in O'Connor Square when it was being revamped.

Instead, he believes some of the seats are made from iroko hardwood and the others appear to be a composite material.

Destruction of the natural environment by chopping down the tropical forests helps to spread Covid-19 and viruses like it, said Mr Roche.

“If we continue to destroy forests the way we are we are going to have much more Covid-19s. We have to stop destroying ecosystems.

He said Covid-19 is directly linked to the destruction of ecosystems.

“When you destroy the ecosystems animals get closer and closer to humans and the viruses are more easily transmitted from animals to humans.”

He accused the County Council of “not joining the dots” by using tropical timber and said it is contrary to the local authority's own stated timber procurement policy.

“They should not be contributing to the destruction of tropical forests,” he said

“We're at a critical stage in our development as humans. If we don't manage our biodiversity better we're going to have a lot more problems. And the problems will be so great they will put Covid-19 in the ha'penny place.”

He said native hardwood could have been sourced from any local sawmill such as Mick Dunne in Clonmore.

“This [tropical hardwood] is running out. It's way overexploited and it's impacting the ecosystems of west Africa and central Africa. We have to stop it, we can't continue with this.”

Mr Roche, 71, who has spent decades campaigning for the sustainable use of timber and who runs the Just Forests organisation, was speaking in advance of a Virtual Forest Vigil in O'Connor Square on Friday.

From 8am to 6pm Mr Roche will position himself in the square with his Wood of Life exhibition, a display which highlights the destruction of woodlands worldwide and stresses the urgent need for protection measures.

He has brought the Wood of Life around the country and even mounted it on one occasion at the 3Arena when singer songwriter Neil Young was performing at the Dublin venue.

While Mr Roche is maintaining his vigil, other performers supporting him will join him online with recordings of music, song and poetry.

Among the participants lined up are the well known priest, Fr Ray Kelly, who will sing 'What a Wonderful World'.

Liz Ryan, a poet based in Killarney, Tullamore poet Geraldine O’Toole, and another creative writer Elizabeth Longworth, a native of New Road, Tullamore who lives in Sligo, are also on the online programme.

There will be singing and music online from Tullamore women Maryann Hughes, Sarah Fahey and Berta Dalmau Tur.

Choirmaster and musical director Andrius Kozlovskis will also be performing, as will Dermot Hehir, a former consultant at Tullamore hospital, and Tullamore man Pat Marron, a former HSE manager, who plays guitar.

Mr Roche said the vigil will acknowledge the selfless work of Ireland’s frontline workers and those “who have given their lives to help keep us all safe during these challenging times” but it will also remember the “frontline defenders” who were murdered during 2019 for protecting the world’s biological diversity from illegal logging, wildlife criminals, government and political corruption, corporate abuse and international inaction.

Mr Roche will distribute free copies of 'Thinking Trees' a resource for teachers “to help them embed a sustainability message in the curriculum”.

He has asked people to upload videos and pictures to their own social media platforms using the hashtags #VirtualForestVigil @Justforests ‪@UNBiodiversity #NatureForAll or email

Friday's event will be livestreamed on Facebook.

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