October 5, 2023
Minister sitting back on ash dieback emergency – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on the government to take immediate action on the issue of ash dieback, rather than sitting back as they have done for the last decade. 
Teachta Kerrane’s remarks follow an Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, which saw Minister Hackett and Minister McConalogue present on the new Forestry Programme.
Sinn Féin launched its Alternative Budget yesterday, which set out several key proposals intended to support forestry, including a €20 million fund to better support site clearance costs as, in some cases under the existing scheme, this cost is not being met. 
Teachta Kerrane said:
“The issue of ash dieback has been allowed to go on unaddressed for over a decade and is now a national emergency. It is a health and safety risk and a cause of financial loss and frustration for affected farmers and forestry owners, that is set to worsen if measures are not put in place immediately.  
“Farmers and forestry landowners have made it clear that the current reconstitution scheme is not adequate to assist them in addressing the extent of this issue. The independent review published by the Minister this week and commissioned by her refers to the scheme as flawed. 
“It is incredibly disappointing that Minister Hackett’s response to the ash dieback review report is to carry out another review – an implementation plan that has no publication date. So again, those affected wait and wait. 
“It is also important to say that the report published this week told us nothing new. All of the issues raised in it have been raised by those affected repeatedly for years. Yet, instead of consulting directly with those affected and acting on what is needed – which again is long known, more and more time is being wasted. 
“I raised this with Minister Hackett and Minister McConalogue when they were before the Committee last night, and pressed the need for an urgent response on ash dieback.
“It is also worth noting that Minister Hackett is insisting that, instead of consulting with farmers and forestry owners to adjust the existing reconstitution scheme and get it right now, those affected should sign up to the flawed scheme and it might or might not be changed at some unknown time in the future. 
“This approach will not work and will not build confidence in the sector or encourage uptake.
“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin has put forward a proposal for an immediate €20 million which would be provided with a view to supporting farmers and forestry owners with site clearance costs. This is just one element. 
“The ash dieback review report suggests an ex-gratia payment for farmers and forestry landowners who have been affected by ash dieback. This needs to be looked at urgently and despite the limitations due to State aid rules on compensation, we want the Government to explore if any such financial support could be provided at EU level.    
“Sinn Féin knows the impact of ash dieback cannot be ignored and that farmers and forestry landowners need support, and they need it now.”

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