The Government today (11/2/2014) considered a Report on the severe weather that affected Ireland from 13 December 2013 to 6 January 2014. It announced that it has decided that a sum of up to seventy €70 million euro will be made available for a programme of repair and remediation works. This will enable local authorities in the areas worst affected by the storms, including the most recent flooding, to help affected communities by restoring roads, coastal protection and other infrastructure and amenities. The €70m figure derives from estimates provided by local authorities and other agencies, broken down as follows:
€16m for roads;
€20m for restoring coastal protection infrastructure;
€26m for local authority infrastructure, tourism, amenity and community infrastructure, and piers/harbours;
€8m for other transport and OPW infrastructure.
This is in addition to the €25m which Government has already announced for Department of Social Protection’s Humanitarian Assistance schemes (€1m of which will now be channelled through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Irish Red Cross).
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Minister Phil Hogan, TD said “The making available of this €70 m clearly demonstrates the Government’s financial commitment to respond to the needs of communities which were devastated by the storms. It is based on the requests from local authorities and facilitates them in immediately beginning a programme of prioritised works to assist the communities and areas worst affected. It will also help many areas which rely on tourism to get back in business.” he said.
“I know there has been further damage in many areas from the most recent spell of storms and flooding. The important thing is that the local authorities and the communities they serve can be assured they can draw down the necessary funds from the three Departments involved in this programme. My Department and staff of the others involved will be meeting staff of the local authorities concerned to set out the working arrangements in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform” the Minister said.
Following discussions with the European Commission, the Government has also noted that the impact of the storms does not meet the threshold conditions for EU Solidarity Fund assistance. The thresholds for regional/exceptional applications are also very high and the EU budget has been reduced from €1 billion to €534 million per annum. The Commission has signalled that this will mean grants for successful applications being cut from 2.5% to about 1.33%. Essentially, for every €100 million of damage, the best we could hope for is €1.33 million assistance under this fund.
Government also noted an initial estimate that up to 500 domestic properties and more than 250 commercial properties have been damaged by the most recent severe weather. Estimates of the damage to private property are not yet available from Insurance Ireland. The Department of Finance has been mandated to continue to liaise with the Insurance sector and to report back on a range of issues which arise in relation to insurance and severe weather and flooding.
Government were also updated on the Department of Social Protection’s support for individuals and households affected by the most recent flooding under the various schemes for which €25 m has been made available.
The Government also noted a range of other points in the Report related to severe weather and the flood mitigation programmes of the OPW. The OPW will report to Government separately on the issue of additional coastal defences and flood protection works and a national flood forecasting and warning system.
Although, the latest weather forecasts indicate the pattern of severe storms will continue this week, the water levels in the rivers has stabilised over the weekend. The Minister, on behalf of the Government, thanked all those in the public services who have been working over an extended period to deal with the worst of the impact for communities, as well as those members of communities who assisted their neighbours who were in need.
The Report on severe weather, prepared by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government will shortly be published on the Department’s website www.environ.ie.