The loss of all ash trees will be a sad outcome for rural NI

Morning View

The disease known as ash dieback has been present in the island of Ireland since 2012.

This newspaper has been reporting on it intermittently since that year.

The disease has ravaged parts of continental Europe, as we report on page 13.

It afflicts all types of ash trees.

But here is the dramatic and depressing statistic: about three fifth of trees in Northern Irish hedgerows are ash.

In other words, some 60% of such trees.

Yet there has been very little publicity about this major problem for the Irish countryside.

The impact will be dramatic, because the leaf loss and lesions on the bark of the trees ultimately kills them.

It will be noticed particularly by readers of this newspaper, so many of whom are rural.

Patrick Cregg, head of the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland,says that much of Ulster’s greenery “comes from its hedgerows because of the nature of our field patters”.

“Realistically there is a danger that they could disappear, which would have an effect on the landscape,” he said.

The officials tasked with controlling the disease are considering that we give up and instead try to live with it.

This is particularly sad in Northern Ireland because we are already one of the most deforested parts of Europe.

Such things of course do happen all over the world.

Trees and buildings come and go and the landscape ultimately changes beyond recognition.

Mr Cregg explains the position well: “As a tree lover, it saddens me; a tree lover that’s old enough to remember the impact that Dutch Elm Disease had.”

That affliction led to the loss of 30 million trees in Great Britain.

Organisations like the Woodland Trust are doing good work in trying to plant new trees in Northern Ireland.

That is a task that has become all the more urgent.

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