Just 25% of applications for the ash dieback scheme have been approved for payments.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue released the figures in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Pauline Tully.

The disease has devastated plantations and groups have been calling for adequate compensation for some time.

“To date, the Department has received over 330 Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) applications for a total of 1,364ha and approved 83 applications for a total of 280ha, which demonstrates a healthy interest in the scheme,” the minister said.

“RUS provides financial support for the removal of the affected ash crop and replacement with alternative species. However, it is not a compensatory tool to provide payment for financial loss incurred due to the impact of ash dieback disease.”

He added that the Department was in the process of preparing a detailed report on ash dieback.

Wexford farmer Anthony Browne said: “I’m now eligible for the ash dieback scheme following the removal of the 25-year rule that previously ruled-out longer-established plantations. Ash dieback was first diagnosed here in 2015, it was just the tips of the trees. Now it’s badly affected. It’s not all plain sailing, either. I understand that if I want to change species type, I will have to request permission from my local authority, who seem unaware of this.”

Nicholas Sweetman, IFA forestry chair for Wexford, said they were making some progress, but issues remained.

“The fact that there was only one ecologist in the Department shows how under-resourced the sector was. There are now 25 in place, but progress on the backlog is way too slow for thousands of forestry owners waiting years to thin or clearfell,” he said.