Tree farming problems
Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) was officially confirmed in Co. Leitrim last Thursday.
The infected ash trees were planted as recently as 2009 using imported plants. It is believed that 5,000 ash were planted in the Leitrim site from a batch of 35,000 plants.
A Forest Service spokesperson in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said the trees have been burned and "the remaining trees imported in this batch are also being destroyed".
Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Shane McEntee, and his officials, met with representatives of forestry companies, growers, nurseries and hurley makers on Monday.
He welcomed the forest nurseries' commitment to strengthen their voluntary moratorium on the importation of ash plants - a high risk factor in the possible spread of the disease.
A blanket commitment was given at the meeting not to use stock from continental Europe for this year's planting season.
The Irish Guild of Ash Hurleymakers (IGAH) outlined their concerns regarding the threat to the hurley ash industry.
They agreed to call on their members to ensure that ash wood for hurley making is either imported from countries free of the disease or that any hurley ash being brought in from Continental Europe would be in plank form with the bark sawn off.
Coillte, who supply most of the homegrown ash for hurley manufacture, agreed to bring forward production of hurley ash material to help alleviate any supply issues.
However, a number of foresters and spokespersons for other forestry organisations maintained that a reliance on voluntary measures is far too weak.
They have called for an immediate compulsory ban on all ash imports to Ireland.
They maintain that if the disease spreads with the same virility here as on the continent, it would devastate Ireland's ash plantations, hedgerow and parkland trees.
Ash is now the most important broadleaf in Irish forestry. Annual ash planting has averaged close to 700ha compared with 500 ha for oak. Before a blanket ban could be put in place, a number of procedures have to be followed, according to a Department spokesperson.
He said that emergency measures would include an outright ban of imported ash from countries with Chalara fraxinea and could be in place within the next three to four weeks.
"We are asking forest owners and members of the public to be vigilant and report any sites where there are concerns about unusual ill health in ash," said the Forest Service spokesperson.