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Infected Irish hedges now in jeopardy

A highly infectious tree disease has been discovered in a native ash hedgerow in Ireland for the first time.

Ash dieback has been confirmed in 88 premises across Northern Ireland – most linked to imports of ash trees – but this is the first time it has been found in a long-established native hedge on the island.

According to the Department of Agriculture, 85 of the cases in Northern Ireland are recently planted sites, with another three in nursery or retail situations.

The discovery of the disease in a hedgerow is a worrying sign that the disease is now becoming established in native stock.

Last night, green group The Environmental Pillar, said this was an "accident waiting to happen" and native tree stock are in jeopardy.

The site is close to where the disease was first found in a commercial plantation of introduced trees in November 2012.

Environmental Pillar spokesman Andrew St Ledger said: "This highlights the need for urgent reform of our outdated forestry policy."

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