DEAR EDITOR,

The response of the Minister of state with responsibility for forestry Pippa Hackett to the findings of the independent review into the ever-increasing ash dieback crisis in Ireland is completely unacceptable.

The report stresses that there is an emergency and that the official response to date failed to recognise the need for immediate action.

This review was commissioned by Minister Hackett. Her statements, which accompanied the publication, demonstrate further failure, by her and her officials, to accept responsibility for years of mismanagement and the need to implement the report recommendations without further delay.

The report finds the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) to be inadequate and totally silvaculturally flawed.

It is an absolute insult to those with trees affected by this devastating disease for her to encourage them to sign up to the RUS on an assurance that any changes, if any, to be made would be available to them. This scheme is defunct and must be abolished forthwith. A new scheme, encompassing all the measures recommended in her review, needs to be introduced without delay. Permission must be granted now to start clearing the dead and dying trees. No more time wasting.

As explained in the report, each day that goes by increases the loss to growers. It was disturbing to see both ministers before the joint Oireachtascommittee on agriculture on Wednesday answering members’ queries by saying they need to review the findings of their review.

Never have we witnessed an issue with such consistent avoidance and kicking the can further down the road. There is now a significant health and safety issue that requires action to avoid further loss of life from falling, diseased trees.

As the minister calls it exciting times in forestry, she seems oblivious to the fact that until we see proper support for people who grow the trees, we need to achieve maximum climate change mitigation, landowners will not plant. She needs to restore confidence.

Words are too cheap now and will not do this. We need to see action.