The government is being urged to take immediate action to implement a scheme that compensates farmers affected by ash dieback.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has made the call following the publication today (Tuesday, October 3) of an independent review of support for farmers impacted by ash dieback which stated that the tree disease “needs to be treated as a national emergency”.

The review was commissioned by Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett.

It called for the establishment of a taskforce, led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), which should include a dedicated department team, landowners, and forest industry stakeholders to oversee and coordinate the “safe and comprehensive clearance” of diseased plantations and re-establishment of new ones.

Ash dieback support

IFA president Tim Cullinan said the government must urgently deliver a “workable scheme that supports and compensates farmers” as recommended in the review.

He explained that in June 2023, on the eve of the IFA Farm Forestry conference, Minister Hackett announced the establishment of the independent review of the ash dieback support scheme.

The group was tasked with reviewing the existing supports in place for landowners affected by ash dieback in grant-aided plantations.

Since 1990, approximately 17,000ha were planted, predominantly by farmers, which was grant aided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) under the afforestation scheme, according to the IFA.

“While we are reviewing the full report the central conclusion here is that the current scheme is flawed and that farmers must be compensated for the losses they have suffered through no fault of their own,” Cullinan said.

“Farmers with ash dieback have been waiting too long, the time for talking is well and truly over.

“The department [DAFM] needs to introduce a new scheme as a matter of urgency, a scheme that properly supports and compensates farmers with ash dieback as per the recommendations,” he added.  

“As stated in the report this is crucial to restore confidence and increase farmer participation in forestry, a key Government objective under the Climate Action Plan,” Cullinan concluded.

Roadside danger

Meanwhile, Galway County Councillor Geraldine Donohue has called on both Ministers Charlie McConalogue and Pippa Hackett to allocate funding to Local Authorities to assist homeowners/landowners with the removal of dangerous roadside trees affected by ash dieback.

Cllr. Geraldine Donohue, Galway County Council. Image source: Facebook

“I am inundated with calls from the public extremely concerned by the enormous risk to life of affected ash trees falling on to public roads throughout the county and indeed country,” she said.

“I do know that the 1993 Roads Act places the responsibility of roadside trees with land owners [and] homeowners – however the risk in removing affected ash trees is simply too great and requires professional tree surgeons who are skilled in the removal of same.

“In my opinion the majority of roadside ash trees have self seeded on verges and boundaries over the 30 years since the 1993 Road Act came in to force and have never been topped as part of the hedge-cutting process, which has now resulted in 30 years of enormous growth in the crown of the tree which is now a danger to all road users.”