|Raising Concern During Oral Question Time With The DARD Minister - Dec 2012|
This week at the Assembly David Hilditch Questioned Agricultural Minister on the Ash Tree Disease.
Minister, the diamond jubilee wood in east Antrim was established last year with the planting out of some 60,000 trees. It was done in conjunction with a departmental forestry grant, and part of the condition of the grant was that 22,000 to 23,000 ash trees had to be planted. Knowing that the disease was present in Europe for a number of years, was it or is it good practice to insist on such a high percentage of single species tree in any project as a condition?
Michelle O'Neill (Sinn Féin)
I cannot speak about the individual case, but I can confirm that this strain of the disease is very different from what we have seen in Europe, which is why there are particular problems in identifying effective treatment and actions. The science is not there because this is a relatively new disease, only found in England since 2011. We are working our way through that and trying to develop the science and the effective treatments as we move forward. At this stage, it is about taking out the new plants and making sure that we target the new plants so that it never gets into the older plants. The condition, as I said, is not because there was inaction: this is a very different strain of ash disease