*Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

CLARE’S STANDING as a hurling county underlines the need for caution following calls to remove all ash trees.

Widespread concern was once again voiced by Clare councillors on the impact of ash dieback this week.

Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the invasive fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, previously known as Chalara fraxinea, which originates in Asia and was brought to Europe in the early 90s. It was first detected in the Republic of Ireland in October 2012 on plants imported from continental Europe. The disease is now prevalent throughout most of the island of Ireland and is likely to cause the death of the majority of the ash trees over the next two decades.

Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) proposed on Monday that Clare County Council make contact with the Minister for Agriculture “to put in place a policy to remove all ash trees immediately and also create funding for same”.

He said “huge health and safety” concerns were posed by trees with ash dieback in public areas and roadside hedges. The Kilmurry representative claimed, “every ash tree in public areas has the dieback. A policy should be put in place similar to what we have for Japanese knotweed, they might not be hazardous today or tomorrow but they will be hazardous in the next couple of years”.

Support was voiced for the removal of all ash trees in the county by ex Clare GAA Chairman, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG). “No branches should be hanging over any road, they should be brought to a certain level,” he stated.

Caution was advised by Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF), “I’ve lots of ash trees on my own property, some of them have dieback and it’s showing but we have to be careful, it’s one of our native trees, especially for a hurling county these trees are critical, we need to be careful we don’t wipe out any chances they have of recovering”. Cllr O’Callaghan responded, “If one in ten trees may survive, are we going to take a chance”.

Putting trees “in the right place at the right time” is critical, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) commented as she said it was a futile exercise to test trees for the presence of ash dieback because “we know they have it”.

A North Clare neighbourwood scheme completed fifteen years ago is now “a very sad sight because the large trees there are all ash,” lamented Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG). Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) added, “We need to start looking at our Municipal Districts to start a programme to take them down. The ivy is another issue”. Using the MDs was a stance echoed by Cllr John Crowe (FG).

Presence of ash dieback is “quite obvious”, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) acknowledged while sharing that two 200 year old trees on her property had to be removed, “they were fine beautiful trees but I had to do it”.

Cllr Pat Burke (FG) told the meeting he would be examining his ash plantation this week. The absence of a scheme has “people left in limbo”, he said while blaming Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett (GP) of “dragging her heels”. He acknowledged, “it is a major issue but it is not easily solved”.

Director of Services, Carmel Kirby noted the disease was prevalent across Clare. “90% of ash trees will succumb to the disease, research is being carried out by Teagasc on the trees which can withstand it,” she added.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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