May 1, 2024
Ash dieback scheme a ‘step in the right direction’ but questions remain – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has stated that the long-awaited support scheme for farmers and forestry landowners affected by ash dieback is a step in the right direction but that questions remain.

The government has approved an action plan to provide additional supports to farmers and forestry owners with plantations impacted by ash dieback disease.

The announcement comes almost eight months after the publication of an independent review on the government’s response to addressing the issue of ash dieback.

Teachta Kerrane said:

“Although very delayed, the announcement of some additional supports for farmers and forestry owners affected by ash dieback is a step in the right direction.

“I have been consistently asking Minister Hackett to publish the action plan, following the independent review which was published last September and which described the situation as a ‘national emergency’.

“In response to me in the Dáil just last week, Minister Hackett stated once again that publication of the long-awaited strategy on ash dieback would be published in the very near future, and I welcome that it has finally happened.

“That a strategy has now been published is movement in the right direction – the government has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to forestry, and particularly regarding ash dieback, and this announcement at least signals that they have finally woken up.

“As I have said before, farmers who I have met with expressed their frustration on the delay to the action plan to address ash dieback being published. I know that for many it has taken a real toll on their mental health, as well as the financial losses they have suffered.

“Detail on the scheme is now needed, and clear communication must be made with farmers and forestry owners affected by ash dieback on what the announcement means for them.

“I am already hearing questions about the absence of some of the 13 recommendations made by the independent review last year in the action plan.

“I also note that it appears the recommendation by the independent review for the Department of Agriculture to ‘explore the potential of a one-off ex-gratia payment to be paid to each landowner as recognition of the absence of an effective scheme between 2018 and 2023’ has not been mentioned and I would ask that Minister Hackett confirm if this was explored and if the Minister could seek such financial aid at EU level.

“I would also like the Minister to confirm if she considered that some landowners will not be in a position to re-plant, some will not live to see the financial benefit of any new plantations and others, simply have had enough. That cohort needs to be considered.

“Engagement with the sector is crucial if the announced scheme is to work for affected farmers and forestry owners, we cannot see the new scheme just left as before, the Minister needs to ensure it actually works.”

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