‘Potential wipe out of 95% of indigenous ash trees an indictment of failed strategy’

The “potential wipe out of 95% of indigenous ash trees” is an “indictment of failed forestry strategy” according to Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne.

The most recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine focused on forestry and was attended by the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

“We heard of the huge challenges being faced by our woodland and forestry owners as they deal with the spread of ash dieback,” the Tipperary TD said.

“We were told that the disease threatens to wipe out the majority of Ireland’s ash trees, yet two schemes designed to help farmers manage infected plantations have obviously not been fit for purpose.

“Instead, the future of many businesses is far from certain because of bad forestry policy.

“They were failed by poor policy which involved the importation of ash trees from countries where the disease was present. This happened even though ash – which has intrinsic value to Ireland’s sport and heritage – is indigenous to this country, and its importation was never needed.”

‘Authorities must also take responsibility for their failings’

Deputy Browne says this was a “wholly short-sighted and misguided strategy” on the part of the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture.

“Yet, I was told at the committee meeting, that the authorities have never taken responsibility. This is evident in the schemes that were rolled out as a result.

“We heard how the old ash dieback scheme was not fit for purpose, and how the new delayed RUS [Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme] also fails to provide adequate assistance, is unavailable to many who need it, and fails to address this challenge in any way.”

The deputy feels that this “lack of consultation with those working within the sector” contributed to the “failure” of these schemes.

Because of this, there is a sense of hopelessness among our farmers and forestry owners when it comes to the impact of ash dieback.

“The current supports need to be revised with proper consultation with the sector.

“The authorities must also take responsibility for their failings, and new forestry policy must reflect this.”