Ash dieback present in Co. Leitrim – statutory and voluntary measures introduced

News in brief

On October 12th, 2012 the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) confirmed a finding of the disease (Chalara fraxinea) at a site in County Leitrim. The disease is known as ash dieback and it is a first finding for Ireland. The disease causes significant damage and has spread rapidly in continental Europe where it is now widespread in several countries.

DAFM worked with the owner of the site to fell infected trees. The Department also introduced emergency measures under the Plant Health Directive. The introduced by the Department under Statutory Instrument will require that any ash plants imported into the country would come from an area known to be free of the disease. This would be regulated under the EU Plant Passport system.

The Department also called on the forest nursery trade and contractors to introduce a voluntary moratorium on imported stock from continental Europe with immediate effect.

Following a meeting on November 2nd 2012, Minister Michelle O’Neill, MLA and Minister of State Shane McEntee, TD agreed to introduce further restrictions on the importation of ash into Ireland.

[The below comments wee published on the DAFM website on 02/11/2012.]

Commenting on recent reports about the disease in England and continental Europe, Michelle O’Neill MLA said The threat of further ash dieback reaching our shores is so serious that Minister McEntee and I have agreed to bring in additional measures to prevent imports of infected ash timber and firewood“. Minister McEntee said “The scientific advice is that the movement of ash timber is a possible pathway of infection, but of lower risk than for plants, which we both banned last week.  Even though the risk is lower, the consequences for the island of Chalara infection mean that we have to take any this disease threat seriously and act in the best interests of the forestry sector“.

The Ministers discussed their recent meetings with stakeholders who regularly import ash wood. In view of the information gathered at these meetings, the Ministers said, “We believe that the threat from the disease is serious and we need to further strengthen the legislation by bringing wood within the scope of the controls. We believe that we have the full support of the forestry sector and related industries in this regard”. They concluded “Officials from North and South will work over the weekend drafting further legislation to provide a proportionate response to the threat. We have agreed that an absolute ban on ash wood imports is impracticable, but we believe that there are treatments of wood that will permit certain imports to continue and that will effectively reduce the Chalara risk substantially”.

Notes to Editors

  1. Chalara fraxinea is a serious disease which has caused the death of many ash trees and other European countries.  Legislation was introduced North and South on Friday 26th October banning the importation and movement of ash plants for planting from infected areas.
  2. When the new legislation comes into place, importers will be required to demonstrate that wood is free from infection by showing that it comes from an area known to be free from disease, or has been treated to remove or kill any disease present by removing the rounded surface, or has been dried to less than 20% moisture content.


Forest owners and members of the public are asked to be vigilant for the disease and report any sites where there are concerns about unusual ill health in ash to Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine by email or by phoning 01 6072651.

Symptoms to look for include necrotic lesions on stems and branches leading to foliage wilt, dieback of branches and death of the top of the crown.

See RTE News video clip – Updated: 13:04, Tuesday, 30 October 2012