An emergency support scheme to compensate forestry owners for losses incurred due to ash dieback must be included in the proposed forestry programme for 2023-2027.

The call was made at an angry meeting of ash plantation owners in Thurles on Saturday, which heard repeated criticism of the Department of Agriculture's response to the disease.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Pippa Hackett were also heavily criticised by those in attendance, with some frustrated forestry owners warning that they would clear diseased plantations themselves unless the Department fast-tracked felling licences.

The meeting at Semple Stadium, which was organised by the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO), heard that close to 6,000 forestry owners have been affected by the ash dieback.

Disaster response

Calling for a “disaster response” from the Department of Agriculture, LTWO chair Simon White said that emergency action was required from Minister McConalogue.

White said the requirement for a felling licence to clear diseased plantations should be waived as part of an emergency response to the disease.

In addition, the meeting called for:

  • The full cost of removing infected trees to be covered by the State.
  • Plantation owners to be compensated for income losses as a result of the disease.
  • Land owners who opt to replant to be paid re-establishment grants and full forestry premiums for 20 years.
  • Land owners to be allowed to exit forestry without penalties if they so wish.
  • “The compulsion to replant must be removed,” White told the meeting.

    “Is it fair that people in their 70s and 80s are asked to replant,” he said.

    Both White and Nicholas Sweetman of Irish Forest Owners claimed that any support package could be funded from the proposed €1.3bn forestry programme for 2023-27.


    Tipperary forestry owner Mary McCormack summed up the feelings of many at the meeting when she said her experience of ash dieback, and of the associated delays and Department bureaucracy, had left her “disgusted and exhausted”.

    McCormack, who has 40ha of ash near Killenaule, was scathing of the Department’s attitude to the problems faced by plantation owners with ash dieback.

    “We don’t have a minister for forestry; we have nobody,” McCormack said.

    “We have to act ourselves. We have to get the forests out…I want my land back,” she told the meeting.

    Forestry owner Ger Buckley, who has plantations in Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick and Clare, pointed out that growers were facing significant losses where trees have to be taken out.

    Buckley cited the example of a 5ac plot that was infected with ash dieback and where he got permission to take the trees out and replace them.

    While he got €5,500 to remove the infected ash trees and replant, it actually cost him €7,000 to remove the infected trees, €8,000 to replant the plot. In addition, there were associated costs due to various reports and applications. As a consequence, Buckley estimated that his losses on the 5ac actually totalled €15,000.

    'Extremely disappointed'

    Addressing the meeting, local TD Jackie Cahill said he was “extremely disappointed” that a compensation package for ash dieback had not been delivered.

    Describing the plantation owners as “entirely blameless”, Cahill claimed many people had seen their pension pots “go up in smoke” as a consequence of ash dieback.

    Cahill, who chairs the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, warned that a satisfactory resolution to the ash dieback issue was essential to rebuild farmer confidence in forestry.

    “The industry is at a crossroads, and if we want to reach our [planting] targets, confidence will have to be restored,” he told the meeting.