Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil that the State forestry company Coillte's €200m deal with UK fund, Gresham House "is not our intended or preferred main model".

He said that the Government's primary aim is to get Irish farmers to take up existing schemes to increase the amount of trees in the country.

However, Mr Varadkar said: "I do want to be clear on this. Contracts are signed."

He said there had been misinformation about the deal and stressed that no public land would be taken over under the arrangement.

He added the objective was to "dramatically" increase the number of trees on the island.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the deal was "scandalous" and would result in land the size of Co Carlow being handed over to "vulture funds".

He claimed the deal would subsidise a "corporate takeover" and added that the would be a protest outside the Dáil by the "Save our Forest, Save out Land" group.