The battle to save the oak trees of Coolattin Woods continues in Wicklow.
Originally there were 650 acres of oak trees in Coolattin. All have now gone, except Tomnafinnoge Woods, which holds about 2000 trees on 165 acres.
Tomnafinnoge Woods, between the villages of Tinahealy and Shillelagh in County Wicklow, is the last remaining area of intact native Irish oak woodland which was part of the Coolattin Estate, former seat of the Earls of Fitzwilliam.
The Coolattin Estate, comprising of the mansion house and prime agricultural land, was put up for sale in the 1970s, after the death of Lady Fitzwilliam. The Fine Gael Labour coalition government at that time declined to buy the land, so the estate was put on the open market. The company who bought the land did so for its oak woodland, which was felled for the international timber market.
The Save Coolattin Woods group, formed in the late 1970s, had over the years been instrumental in getting preservation orders applied to some of the woods, which were still in private ownership, and Wicklow County Council had placed strict conditions on any future felling. The council was faced with a dilemma: grant felling licences or pay compensation, and at that time, funding was not available for compensation.
The question still remains - why spoil this beautiful part of the Garden of Ireland by cutting away its natural beauty?
Terry Nee from Wicklow County Council,
We aren’t spoiling the Garden of Ireland. What we have tried to do, with the conditions within the permission, is to ensure that it is replanted, and in fifty or sixty years time, we’ll have the Tomnafinnoge Woods back as they are now again.
Pat O’Toole from the Save Coolattin Committee was not at all happy with the council’s plan,
This particular woodland simply has not run its full course. One of the inadequacies of Tomnafinnoge Woods, from an ecological point of view, is that there are not enough decaying timber in the woods to sustain ecological activity to a maximum. Most of the trees there are between 200 to 150 years of age, and we all know an oak tree is still in its prime at maybe 350 or 400 years of age.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 15 June 1992. The reporter is Kevin McDonald.