A newly formed group of people representing the forestry industry has protested outside the Dáil, over what it described as a "licensing scandal".

Gathering on Kildare Street from all over the country, the Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA) said a delay and backlog of licences being given by the Department of Agriculture for felling, thinning, replanting and access to forests is causing economic and environmental problems.

Protester Paddy Bruton from Forestry Services Ltd and Euroforest Ireland said those working in the industry cannot trade.

"People cannot plant land, farmers cannot manage their crops, we cannot harvest timber to make it available to people who want to build homes," he said.

Mr Bruton said Irish people are paying more for the timber than they need to because timber is now being imported into the country rather than being manufactured here.

Teige Ryan from None So Hardy Forestry in Wicklow criticised the Government for saying Ireland needs to be planting more trees.

"We have COP26 happening but we have 'Cop out' going on with the department," he said.

He said the delay in getting licences is having a huge impact on the industry.

Maurice Ryan from the company Green Belt, which manages forests around the country, said the problem is ultimately hitting people in the pocket because the price of all timber products from fencing to construction materials has doubled.

At a 15-acre forest outside Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, a licence to fell trees has been granted but the licence to build a road for vehicle access to the timber has not been granted.

He said this was "incredibly frustrating".

SEEFA said if the political will is not there to get the backlog of licence applications at the Department cleared, they would protest again.

It does "not want to disrupt the lives" of anybody working or living in Dublin, but warned the next protest would be larger.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said it is working on the backlog and has made "significant inroads" into resolving licencing issues.

In a statement, it said a total of 3,100 licences are currently being processed: 2,400 are from Coillte, 700 of which have been "returned to the applicant for further work".

It said that to 29 October this year, more licences were issued than in the whole of 2020 with 3,158 this year compared to 2,592 for last year.

In correspondence with SEEFA after their Dáil protest, the Minister of State for Agriculture Pippa Hackett told the group she was "acutely aware" of the issues facing the forestry sector.

She said the number of licences issued in recent weeks shows the department is "moving in the right direction" and that although progress had been made, there was still "work to be done".