Ash dieback has become a “national emergency” in Ireland, according to Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture, Clare Kerrane. She has criticized the government for allowing the issue to go unaddressed for over a decade and is calling for immediate action. Kerrane argues that ash dieback poses a health and safety risk, as well as causing financial loss and frustration for farmers and forestry owners. She warns that the situation will worsen if measures are not taken urgently.
Kerrane points out that farmers and forestry landowners have expressed dissatisfaction with the current reconstitution scheme, which they feel does not adequately address the extent of the problem. An independent review of support for those affected by ash dieback was recently published, commissioned by Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett. The review emphasizes the need for a state-led national and rapid coordinated response, stating that ash dieback should be treated as a national emergency.
Despite the publication of the review, Kerrane believes that it does not offer any new insights. She highlights the suggestion of an ex-gratia payment for affected farmers and forestry landowners, which she believes should be urgently considered. Although there may be limitations due to state aid rules on compensation, Kerrane urges the government to explore the possibility of providing financial support at the EU level.
Sinn Féin has proposed several key suggestions in its Budget 2024 proposals to support forestry. One of these suggestions is to allocate an immediate €20 million to provide financial support for farmers and forestry owners to cover site clearance costs. Kerrane emphasizes that the impact of ash dieback cannot be ignored and that affected individuals need support now.
Minister Hackett has responded by stating that she is working with her officials to implement the recommendations from the independent review. While some of the recommendations are already being addressed, certain ones require further examination and investigation, particularly in relation to EU state aid rules. The minister has committed to publishing a full implementation plan once this work is complete.
In conclusion, the issue of ash dieback in Ireland has reached a critical stage, with Sinn Féin calling it a “national emergency.” The government is under pressure to take immediate action to address the problem, as farmers and forestry owners continue to suffer financial losses and frustration. The independent review has highlighted the need for a coordinated response and the possibility of financial support for affected individuals. Minister Hackett is currently assessing the recommendations and plans to publish an implementation plan in response to the review.