Independent Review of Ash Dieback Response Published
Minister of State for Land-use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, has published the report of the Independent Review Group into the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s response to ash dieback disease. The report is available on the department’s website.
Minister Hackett said “I have met with the independent review group and I am now working with my officials to implement its recommendations. While a number of the recommendations are already in hand, the review group has highlighted certain recommendations as requiring further examination and investigation, in particular in the context of the application of EU State Aid rules. My Department is currently assessing these matters, and I have committed to publishing a full implementation plan in response to the Review Group’s report once this work is complete.”
Ash dieback was first detected in Ireland in 2012 and now affects approximately 16,000 hectares of ash forests. The Department opened two reconstitution schemes (in 2013 and 2020) to assist affected owners by covering the costs to clear and replant trees on their sites. Earlier this year, site clearance rates were doubled to €2,000 per hectare. In addition, grant and premium rates have been enhanced to the higher levels found in the new Forestry Programme. To date, €10 million has been spent on these schemes.
Minister Hackett said, “The Department currently operates a reconstitution scheme covering the costs of clearing and replanting affected sites, and top-up annual payments to new higher rates for forest owners who are still eligible for premiums. I know from engaging with owners of ash plantations and from visiting a number of affected sites the distress the disease has caused, and this comes across clearly in the report. It is important that remaining ash plantations are cleared without undue further delay, so I would strongly encourage affected landowners to apply to the newly launched reconstitution scheme with improved site clearance rates if they have not already done so.
I also want to stress my clear intention that any forest owner who applies to this scheme, or who availed of the 2020 reconstitution scheme, will not be disadvantaged by any changes made as a result of the independent review process.”
Minister McConalogue thanked the Independent Review Group for their work and added; “I am working with my colleague Minister Hackett to bring forward solutions that recognise the unique difficulties farmers impacted by ash dieback face.”
Notes for editors
The report is available on the department’s website: gov.ie – Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme 2023-2027 (www.gov.ie)
An independent review of the Department’s response to ash dieback disease was established by Minister of State Hackett in June 2023. The Review Group comprised of Dr Matthew Crowe, Jerry Grant and Jo O’Hara. Its purpose was to review the existing and previous supports available to landowners with ash plantations funded under the National Forestry Programme which are now infected with the disease.
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