Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, today opened a Conference on Ash and Hurling in Croke Park, organised by Teagasc in conjunction with the Guild of Irish Ash Hurley Makers and the GAA.
In his opening address, Minister Tom Hayes noted: “The sport of hurling is ingrained in Irish social and sporting life and it even features in our mythology. The ‘clash of the ash’ is one of those evocative sounds that adds to the atmosphere of any match or, for hurling fans, brings back memories of a personal favourite match.”
On a general note, he encouraged young people to participate in sport, stating: “Participation in sport has major health benefits, both for physical and mental health. While not everyone can play on a team or is able to train, there are always opportunities to become involved in club activities and to support local and county teams. That is the beauty of Gaelic Games – it creates local heroes and role models for our youth.”
Focusing on the subject of the Conference, the Minister commented: “The growing of hurley ash by Irish landowners is an example of a home-grown, sustainable and renewable raw material being supplied to another indigenous, rural industry.”
Referring to the investment by the Government in the forestry programme, he added: “While the challenge heretofore has been to encourage the planting of ash in sufficient quantity to meet the demand from the hurley making sector, we have recently encountered another challenge – the finding of Chalara fraxinea late last year.”
He gave an update on his Department’s work to identify affected ash plantations and the way in which the Department is dealing with confirmed findings of Chalara fraxinea and welcomed the co-operation by the Guild of Irish Ash Hurley Makers.
Referring to the recent launch of an All Ireland Control Strategy for the disease by his Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, the Minister was pleased to note that the Guild has also taken steps to assist these efforts, calling on members to ensure that ash wood for hurley making is either imported from countries free of the disease or that any hurley ash being brought in from Continental Europe would be in plank form with the bark sawn off.
He also thanked Coillte, who supply most of the home grown ash for hurley manufacture, for bringing forward production of hurley ash material to help alleviate any supply issues that might arise.
“In my capacity as Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, I look forward to working closely with the Guild and the various other stakeholders, farmers and forest owners to eradicate this threat to our native ash,” he concluded.