The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has reiterated that the source of ash dieback disease in Ireland remains unknown. This statement comes in response to parliamentary questions posed by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, who called on Minister McConalogue to correct his previous response on the matter. In his previous response, the minister stated that the exact origin of ash dieback disease in Ireland, as well as the time of its introduction, are unknown. Deputy Boyd Barrett claimed that the minister’s predecessor, Simon Coveney, had identified the origin of the disease as a consignment of 30,000 ash plants imported from continental Europe in 2012. He also called on Minister McConalogue to identify the importer and distributor of the infected plants and the locations where they were planted. The infected plants were subsequently cut and burned to prevent further spread of the disease.
However, Minister Charlie McConalogue has stated that he will not be correcting or amending his previous response. He clarified that his reply acknowledged that ash dieback disease was first discovered in Ireland in late 2012 and that the exact origin and introduction of the disease are still unknown. He added that it is likely the disease was introduced through infected plants used for forest, farm, or roadside planting. Minister McConalogue emphasized that these statements are consistent with those made by former Minister Simon Coveney. He further noted that his predecessor had confirmed the first finding of the disease in Co. Leitrim on October 12, 2012.
Regarding the identification of businesses involved in the import and distribution of the infected plants, Minister McConalogue stated that it is not appropriate to disclose their details. He explained that these businesses did not engage in any illegal activities and that his department relies on information from the public and businesses to address the risks associated with the introduction and establishment of harmful pests and diseases. Publishing their names could also harm their reputation among the wider public. Importers of certain plants and tree species are subject to pre-notification requirements, the minister added.
Ash dieback disease is prevalent across Europe and has been detected in every county in Ireland. In response to the ongoing issue, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, recently announced the establishment of an independent review group. This group will assess the government’s ash dieback support scheme and provide recommendations on its effectiveness to Minister Hackett within three months.
Overall, the source of ash dieback disease in Ireland remains unknown, and efforts are ongoing to address its impact and prevent further spread. The government is committed to reviewing and improving its support scheme to mitigate the effects of this disease on the country’s ash trees and forests.