Ash trees under threat as lethal bug found here
A deadly disease that could wipe out every ash tree in the country is putting the future of the traditional hurley under threat.
The Department of Agriculture confirmed that the first Irish case of chalara disease has been discovered in Co Leitrim.
The disease has been spreading rapidly throughout Europe and has the potential to wipe out most of our ash trees, forestry experts have warned.
Damian Larkin of Galway firm TJ Larkin Hurleys said that following confirmation of a case in Ireland for the first time, they were on high alert for any more signs of the disease.
"It's a real concern for the industry and we're watching this very closely," he said.
The Department of Agriculture said it was introducing emergency measures to stop ash plants being imported from countries that have chalara.
It is working with the owner of the forest where the diseased tree was found to destroy the material and remove the risk of the disease spreading further.
It also called on traders to introduce a voluntary moratorium on bringing in nursery ash plants from Europe with immediate effect.
The department said it had also been in contact with hurley makers and forest organisation to brief them on developments.
Around 350,000 hurleys are used annually in Ireland, though more than 70pc of the ash wood used to make them is imported.
Some 3pc of Irish forests are ash forests, but one in 10 trees planted last year was an ash.
Jim Lawlor of the Irish Native Woodland Trust said chalara was a terrible threat.
"The outbreak of the disease in Europe is by far the worst outbreak of any disease in trees in recent history," he said.
Four million ash trees have been planted every year since 2000.
Forest owners and members of the public have been asked to look out for signs of chalara.
Affected trees can develop lesions leading to wilting foliage and branches and the crown of the tree dying back.