Hackett a No-Show at Crucial Ash Dieback Taskforce Meeting, Says DAFM

"Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Misses Ash Dieback Taskforce Meeting: Department of Agriculture Confirms"

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has confirmed that Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity in DAFM, Pippa Hackett, did not attend the first meeting of the ash dieback taskforce earlier this week. The taskforce convened on Tuesday, May 28, with Minister Hackett remarking in a statement that there was “constructive engagement of all concerned” during this inaugural gathering. DAFM verified to Agriland that “Minister Hackett did not attend” the initial meeting of the taskforce, which was chaired by assistant secretary general Paul Savage.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Minister Hackett emphasized: “When presenting the ash dieback action plan to cabinet last month, alongside an additional €79.5 million in funding for ash plantation owners, I reiterated my unwavering commitment to ensuring that my department acts promptly to implement all of the recommendations of the independent review that I commissioned into the prior management of the ash dieback outbreak. Stakeholder participation and representation of ash plantation owners will be pivotal to my department’s execution of the action plan, and today’s inaugural meeting of the ash dieback taskforce marks a crucial step in this direction. The taskforce will serve as the platform through which my department will engage openly and comprehensively with representatives of landowners and the broader forestry sector as we progress towards implementing the action plan,” Minister Hackett concluded in her statement.

Criticism of ash dieback taskforce has emerged, with Simon White, chair of the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO), asserting that attempts to depict the initial taskforce meeting as a “successful collaboration” are misleading. White contended: “It was evident to all present at that meeting that the taskforce is confronted with an insurmountable challenge”. White highlighted a “lack of adequate funding within the scheme allocated to each stage in a complex process”. Derek McCabe, chair of the Irish Forestry Owners (IFO) and a member of the ash dieback taskforce who was present at the meeting, aims “to challenge” Minister Hackett’s assertion of “constructive engagement”. McCabe noted that the taskforce convened for the first time this week, “six months after the recommendation in the ash dieback report that such a task force should be established urgently”. Both White and McCabe received the terms and conditions of the taskforce the night before the meeting, they each disclosed. “When requested to endorse the terms and conditions of the task force…the majority of stakeholders indicated they could only do so with expressed reservations and under pressure,” White elaborated. “Considering that most of them rely on the departmental forestry schemes for a substantial portion of their business revenue, it is evident they were in a difficult position if they opposed the terms of reference,” the LTWO chair added.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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