Farmers representatives have reacted with fury to suggestions by Minister of State Pippa Hackett that there was “constructive engagement” at the first meeting of the ash dieback taskforce last Tuesday.

Both the Irish Forest Owners (IFO) and Limerick-Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO) rejected Minister Hackett’s characterisation of the meeting and accused her of engaging in “spin”.

“I welcome the constructive engagement of all concerned at today’s first meeting and I look forward to continued progress over the coming months,” Minister Hackett said in a statement following the meeting.

“The taskforce will be the forum through which my Department will engage in an open and detailed manner with representatives of landowners and of the wider forestry sector as we move forward to implement the [ash dieback] action plan,” the minister claimed.


Reacting to Minister Hackett’s comments, both the IFO and LTWO pointed out that the meeting was marred by heated exchanges between the various parties.

“As chairperson of the Irish Forestry Owners (IFO) and a member of the ash dieback taskforce, I wish to refute the statement by Minister Pippa Hackett,” said Derek McCabe.

“She has stated that there was constructive engagement at the first meeting yesterday of the ash dieback taskforce. Unfortunately, this media spin has become the hallmark of this minister,” he added.

Reacting to Minister Hackett’s comments, the LTWO stated that: “The determined efforts of the Department’s Forestry Service and Minister Hackett to put a spin on the outcome of the first meeting of the taskforce portraying it as an already successful collaboration is totally misleading. The truth is that it was patently clear to everyone at that meeting that the taskforce faces an impossible task."

'Heated exchanges'

Heated exchanges at Tuesday’s meeting followed demands by senior Department officials that all members of the taskforce sign to its terms of reference, which limited discussions to the implementation of the ash dieback package as it is currently framed.

This was opposed by the IFO and LTWO.

IFO chair McCabe eventually signed up to the terms of reference, but did so under what he described as “duress”.

Simon White of the LTWO refused to sign up to the taskforce’s terms of reference. However, he maintained that he remained in the taskforce to represent the interests of LTWO members.

The forestry grower groups maintain that confining the terms of reference to the implementation of the ash dieback package was a serious mistake.