€129,500 Paid Out Under Ash Dieback Scheme in Co. Westmeath
Latest figures reveal that approximately €129,500 has been paid out under the de minimis ash dieback scheme, with the majority of applications originating in Co. Westmeath. The interim reconstitution scheme for ash dieback was announced in March 2023. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, confirmed that applications were received for both site clearance and replanting under the interim scheme. As of now, 28 applications for site clearance have been received, with 18 already paid and the remaining 10 currently being processed. In addition, 11 applications for the first replanting grant have been received, with four already paid out by the end of November.
Ash dieback was first identified in Ireland in 2012. Under the new Forestry Programme 2023 to 2027, an enhanced reconstitution scheme for ash dieback has been introduced, offering site clearance grants of €2,000 and replanting grants. Minister McConalogue has described this scheme as the quickest and most effective way to clear and reconstitute affected sites.
In June, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, commissioned an independent review into the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s approach and support for landowners affected by ash dieback since 2013. The review emphasized the need for a state-led, national, and rapid coordinated response to ash dieback. Last month, Minister Hackett confirmed that a comprehensive implementation plan for ash dieback would be presented to Cabinet in the near future.
However, Sinn Fein spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane, expressed concern about the lack of a timeline for the implementation plan. She stated that it is crucial for the government’s strategy to address ash dieback to be published without delay. Deputy Kerrane pointed out that the independent review was presented to the minister three months ago, stressing the urgency of the situation and recommending action. She called on the government to stop dragging its heels and prioritize the publication of the long-awaited strategies.
Deputy Kerrane emphasized that ash dieback is now a national emergency, posing health and safety risks and causing financial loss and frustration for affected farmers and forestry owners. She warned that the situation will worsen if immediate measures are not put in place. Deputy Kerrane urged the minister to take swift action and publish the strategies as a matter of priority.