Govt plans bid for EU flood funding

TDs are expected to hold talks with Europe’s Regional Policy Commissioner Pawel Samecki later this week as the Government considers a formal application for flood damage cash support from Brussels.

The Dáil’s European Affairs Committee has asked for urgent talks to discuss the devastation caused by the worst flooding for hundreds of years and a meeting could take place in Brussels on Friday.

Money is available from a European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) set up in 2002 in response to severe flooding in central Europe.

Cash can be paid out for any “major natural disaster” which causes a certain level of “direct damage”.

The financial threshold is different for each EU country and in Ireland’s case is set at €972.7m.

That is the amount Dublin would have to establish was the minimum caused by “direct damage”, which includes all public and private physical destruction caused by the disaster and the cost of rescue operations and immediate emergency infrastructure repairs.

Meanwhile, European Commission officials are planning to visit flood-stricken areas as part of any assessment of the scale of possible EU funding, although a Commission official explained: “We not are not loss adjusters – that is for the Irish government – but we would send people to explain to the Irish authorities what they might expect from the Fund, depending on the total level of damage that has been caused.”

He added: “We will do as much as we can to expedite the application process, but we are not pressing Ireland to make a claim. That is a matter for Dublin alone.”

Last week TDs urged the Government to make a claim for a share of a fund which disburses up to €1bn, and which has paid out just over half the total so far in 2009, most recently for the Abruzzo earthquake in Italy and to tackle the impact of “Storm Klaus” in France.

A country which qualifies could receive 2.5% of the estimated cost up to the threshold, and 6% of any amount above the threshold.

The UK Government is also expected to make a claim from the fund, in the wake of severe weather damage in the Umbria region.

Meanwhile Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South Sean Kelly called on the Government today to top up the country’s €12m Flood Relief Fund with the estimated €120m in wage savings from the public sector work stoppage on November 24 and another expected this Thursday.

“It is estimated that the Government will save approximately €120m in wage payments from the two public sector work stoppages,” said Mr Kelly.

“Exceptional times require exceptional measures, so I call on the Government to divert these savings to top up the paltry €12m flood relief fund.”

He added: “Hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, farms and most importantly, houses and homes need to be rebuilt and restored to liveable standards. A lot of these buildings have not been insured so the full cost will fall on those who can least afford to pay them.

“What better way to redistribute the savings from the public sector strikes than to the immediate aid of the flood victims?”

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