There was a light-hearted exchange between Senators in the Seanad during a discussion on the new killer ash dieback disease.
Galway Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh suggested as a pre-Budget submission that the Government put a levy on hurleys in Kilkenny to balance the competition across the country. Senator Ó Clochartaigh also thanked Kilkenny Senator Pat O’Neill for stopping the rumour going around Galway that Brian Cody and his team had something to do with the spread of the disease in Galway, Tipperary, Meath and Leitrim.
Senator O’Neill responded that Kilkenny could pay such a levy with All-Ireland medals and he called on the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Deputy Shane McEntee to make a statement to the House in which he denied it was a Tipperary conspiracy to do with Kilkenny hurling because of the importance of the ash tree there.
On a more serious note, Senator O’Neill said he knew how important the timber industry, in particular the ash industry, was in Ireland, whether for making hurleys or furniture or for firewood. The ash dieback disease spread rapidly through continental Europe and four or five cases had been discovered here in imported saplings.
“Is it possible to put in place a test for early diagnosis and, if so, will the Minister of State obtain funding from the Department to do so? It takes a while, perhaps a few years, for the disease to be noticed in a tree when the leaves fall off and the crown starts to die. This might be too late for the trees. We saw what happened with Dutch elm disease, which wiped out one variety of elm tree,” added Senator O’Neill.