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Hayes and O'Neill launch All Ireland Charlara Conference and Underline Importance of Co-Operation on Plant Health Matters

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Tom Hayes TD and Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill MLA have highlighted the importance of continued co-operation in tackling plant disease throughout Ireland.

The two Ministers were speaking at the All-Ireland Chalara ash diebackConference in Dundalk, where they informed delegates that findings of the disease throughout the island of Ireland have been limited mainly to recently imported material.

Chalara ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees and has been found in the North and South in recently established ash woodlands and other sites which have been planted with imported ash trees.  The disease has also been found in Counties Leitrim and Tipperary in hedgerows associated with imported ash sites.

Speaking at the conference Minister Hayes said “Since Chalara was first identified North and South in late 2012 we have sought to coordinate our efforts and share our experience in order to bring about the best possible outcome.  This approach culminated in the launch of the All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy in July 2013.  We continue to implement this strategy and see it as an important contributor in addressing the threat posed by Chalara on the island of Ireland.”

Speaking at the conference Minister O’Neill added: “My Department is committed to enhancing tree and plant health on an all-Ireland basis and since the launch of the All-Ireland Chalara Control Strategy in July last year, Minister Hayes and I have been working hard through the North South Ministerial Council to encourage co-operation on the island to enhance plant health status, to respond to tree and plant disease outbreaks and to share knowledge and experience.”

“This is an objective that Minister Hayes and I share and I welcome the opportunity that this conference provides to enable us to learn more about the Chalara ash dieback, the experience of this disease in Ireland, Britain and the Continent. I hope that this provides a better understanding of the challenges we face and how best we can prepare for the future.”

Minister Hayes gave an up to date position on the number of occurrences of the disease in the South where he said that there were a total of 120 confirmed findings of the disease located throughout the country.  Of these, 47 are located in forests, with the remainder 73 at non-forest locations. Minister Hayes said that it was vital that all stakeholders come together “to explore and develop ways of minimising both the economic and environmental impacts of this disease in Ireland and Great Britain. As a native species, ash has important heritage and ecological values and it is incumbent on us all to protect this species as best we can.”

The conference was attended by over 100 delegates from both North and South and provided an update on the current scientific understanding of the pathogen/host interaction, experience of the disease in Ireland, Britain and Norway, the potential impact of the disease on nature conservation in Ireland, research into modelling spread of ash dieback and potential disease management strategies. Participants took part in small discussion groups in the afternoon session to address a number of key questions about: control of the disease, research priorities, and better public engagement and how we can adapt our tree and woodland management to provide greater resilience in response to new plant health threats.

The conference was hosted jointly by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Agri-food and Biosciences Institute and the Society of Irish Plant Pathologists.

 added 08.05.2014

MEP Mairead McGuiness with Junior Minister Tom Hayes Minister of State in The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine with Minister Michele O'Neill of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland who jointly opened the Charlara Conference in Dundalk

Notes to editors

Chalara fraxinea (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) is a fungus which causes the disease known as “Ash Dieback”. 

  • National legislative measures (S.I. 431 of 2012) were introduced in November 2012 under the Destructive Insects and Pest Acts 1958 and 1991 to regulate the import of ash seed, plants and wood.  Similar legislation was introduced in tandem by Northern Ireland.
  •  Ash has been delisted from the list of tree species approved under the afforestation grant schemes.  In recent years 10% of the planting programme was ash.
  • It is very important that members of the public watch out for ash dieback but most importantly that they know the symptoms to look out for when examining their ash as there are many other pests and diseases (albeit less harmful) associated with ash. Guidance on the symptoms of ash dieback caused by Chalara fraxinea is given on the Teagasc forestry website and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine’s Chalara webpage 
  • 22 Chalara information meetings around the country were organised by Teagasc and DAFM, in May 2013.  Around 800 people attended and information was provided on what to look out for and the implications in terms of clearance of a forest plantation. Clarification was also given at these meetings on the implications to AEOS and REPS farmers where the disease is found on the trees planted under these schemes in relation to applying for Force majeure and the implications on payments etc. 
  • Following discussions with the GAA a one page advertisement was placed in the 2013 All Ireland Replay Hurling Final Programme requesting Patrons to look out for the symptoms of ash dieback.  In addition the GAA have included an article in their monthly newsletter that goes out to all the clubs in the country in an effort to raise awareness further.
  • The All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy was launched by Minister of State Tom Hayes and Minister O Neill on 9th July 2013, this strategy is on the Department’s Chalara web page.
  • The Chalara Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for UK and Ireland was published by the Forestry Commission UK following close co-operation and input from officials from DAFM and officials and experts from NI.  This PRA aims to give a more sound legal footing to the measures introduced last year to restrict plants and wood from being imported from diseased areas. The document will be examined by the EU Standing Committee on Plant Health in relation to the appropriateness of our measures.  

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View this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 65/2014 (pdf 759Kb) 





Date Released: 08 May 2014