The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the first case of the killer ash dieback disease in a native Irish tree has been found.

Ninety-six outbreaks of the fungus, which can destroy ash trees, have been found in imported trees across the country since the first case was identified in October of last year.

The department has worked with the IFA, nursery owners, landowners and forestry contractors since then to clear the effected plantation sites.

However, inspectors have recently identified the 97th case in a hedgerow tree in Co Leitrim, close to but outside of the area where the first cluster of cases was found in imported trees last year.

Department of Agriculture officials have said this is the first time that the disease has been found in native Irish ash.

As a result, eradication measures are being put in place in the area where the case was found.

All ash trees in hedgerows within 250m of the plantation are to be taken out and burned or buried.

Sources say the number of trees is likely to run into the hundreds, although some of the trees will be small saplings.

The Leitrim site where the first case was found in imported trees was planted with imported ash plants in 2009 and these were confirmed positive for Chalara fraxinea last year.

The area remains by far the largest known outbreak of the disease in Ireland.

Last November, legislative measures were put in place to regulate the importation of ash seed, plants and wood. Similar legislation was introduced in Northern Ireland.

The department has appealed to the public to be on the look-out for the disease.

Guidance on the symptoms can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Teagasc's website.