THE spread of deadly ash dieback disease is a disaster for Ireland's homegrown forests and could cost millions if it continues to spread, environmentalists have warned.
Jim Lawlor, of the Native Woodland Trust, said the recent news that chalara disease had spread from imported trees to native ash was devastating.
The Department of Agriculture confirmed that there have now been 97 confirmed cases of the ash tree killer since it first arrived in Ireland one year ago.
Significantly, the first such case has now been found in a native tree in Co Leitrim. The case was identified this month in a hedgerow near where chalara was first identified in Ireland in imported trees last year.
"It's very sad but completely unsurprising because the department tried to shut the stable door after the horse had already bolted," said Mr Lawlor.
"There is a huge economic cost to this because millions has been invested in planting ash trees all over the country and if it continues to spread all that could be lost."