Describing it as "shambolic", Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Claire Kerrane TD has called on the Government to urgently engage with the forestry sector on the Ash Dieback Scheme.

She said that even with slight tweaks made in recent weeks, the scheme is “not workable” and is “incapable of dealing with the issue of ash dieback” and changes are needed urgently.

Deputy Kerrane said: "Last week, those affected by ash dieback disease protested outside the Dáil on the failed Ash Dieback Scheme, which, very clearly, is not fit for purpose.

"Once again, the Government [has] failed to listen to the experts and those affected on what they actually need to deal with this disaster once and for all. And while this is allowed to rumble on, confidence in the forestry sector remains on the floor."

Clearance grants

"The grants for clearance are not covering the cost of clearance for some plantations. Why should those who did the right thing and did what they were encouraged to do - plant ash trees - be left with a bill for removing the dead trees when it was no fault of their own? It is unacceptable.

"The clearance grant cannot be one size fits all. Depending on the age of the trees, the clearance costs can vary and this needs to be acknowledged in the scheme.

"If it isn't, trees are going to be left rotting and lives are going to put at risk. This is just one issue with the current scheme," she said.

Deputy Kerrane called on Minister of State Pippa Hackett to get around the table with representatives from the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners and the Irish Farmers' Association and others to make the Ash Dieback Scheme fit for purpose, as she should have done in the first place.

"If the forestry sector in Ireland is to have any hope at all, ash dieback needs to be dealt with once and for all.

"All affected trees must be carefully and properly removed as quickly as possible and those who are not interested in replanting should be allowed to restore their land, as they so wish."