I recently met with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O'Neill MLA, at a joint North South Ministerial Council where we shared information on actions taken in both jurisdictions in relation to Chalara fraxinea. My colleague Minister of State Shane McEntee TD, has also met with Minister O'Neill and has been in regular direct contact to ensure that the legislation that both jurisdictions introduced was compatible in relation to both our treatment of plant imports and our treatment of wood imports, and also to continue to brief each other on the situation with the disease north and south of the border.
Officials from my Department are also in regular direct contact with officials from the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and have met on a number of occasions recently to co-ordinate an all island response to prevent the spread of ash dieback disease as the island of Ireland maintains a harmonised plant health regime under the EU Plant Health Directive. There is a very good working relationship and strong dialogue between our officials and those dealing with this disease in Great Britain.
My officials are in regular contact with their EU counterparts in relation to ash dieback disease, primarily through the EU Standing Committee on Plant Health. At the most recent meeting on 22/23 November 2012 Ireland made a presentation to the Commission and the Member States outlining the situation concerning Chalara fraxinea in Ireland and the national protective measures which have been introduced to combat the disease. Department staff and Teagasc are also members of a European research cooperation group called 'Fraxback' that exchange scientific information concerning the Ash dieback disease.
These contacts are especially important after my Department announced yesterday a significant stepping up of its eradication measures based on the results of its ongoing Chalara survey. The interim results from the major winter survey currently being undertaken has confirmed further positive samples for the presence of Chalara. This brings the number of positive cases to 22, including 15 in young plantations, 6 in horticultural nurseries and 1 planted ornamentally in a garden. There have now been incidents of the disease in forest plantations in Counties Leitrim, Meath, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Longford and Galway.
To address the threat to our ash woodlands, there will be a major eradication programme on sites where there are ash trees from confirmed positive imported consignments. My Department will supervise the destruction and re-establishment of these sites. A re-establishment grant will be made available to the owners of private plantations which are part of the Department’s current afforestation programme. Ash plants from the infected batches supplied to other sites will also be destroyed.
The intensive winter surveys will continue until a full picture has been obtained and my Department will continue to review the situation and take the necessary actions to deal with the disease. The situation in other European countries is being monitored also.