Ireland ‘will not qualify’ for EU financial help to cope with Ophelia aftermath

Ireland ‘will not qualify’ for EU financial help to cope with Ophelia aftermath

Ireland will not qualify for any financial help from the EU to cope with the aftermath of Ophelia because the damage caused will not reach into the billions of euro, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed Ireland will be left to bear the brunt of the financial cost as he said the Government will not know the full extent of the expense for a number of weeks and that local authorities worst-hit will receive extra money to address storm-related damage.

Speaking to reporters as he inspected the work of ESB crews reconnecting power supplies to homes and businesses in Kilcock, Co Kildare, Mr Varadkar said while the damage done by Ophelia is “not as big as we feared” it is still significant and must be assessed.

However, despite suggestions from Insurance Ireland the cost to the State could hit €500 to €800m, he said it is unlikely the figure will be enough to qualify to access the EU solidarity fund — meaning Ireland will be left to bear the brunt of the financial costs.

“The view is we almost certainly don’t reach the threshold of EU solidarity funding. There’s a particular cost of damage you have to reach before you qualify

“I can’t remember if that’s 1% or 10% of GDP, but whether it’s the former or the latter it’s €2bn or €20bn and thankfully it [the price of the Ophelia damage] isn’t anywhere approaching that,” Mr Varadkar said.

Asked if the Government has an indicative figure for the total costs involved at this stage, the Taoiseach said “we honestly don’t know yet” and that over the coming weeks officials will assess the full extent of the damage.

However, while noting that “the damage is not as big as we feared”, he confirmed extra money will be made available to affected areas.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar also confirmed that extra help will come from electricity and repair workers from England, Scotland and France in the coming days and that the Defence Forces and Air Corps are currently completing visual surveys of damaged land and facilities.

A number of government departments yesterday gave updates on the impact storm Ophelia has had on key services to cabinet.

They included:

- Housing: 69,000 homes still without water and 100,000 reliant on water storage, with counties Cork and Waterford the worst affected counties. Irish Water is sending 30 water tankers to affected areas, while a number of waste water treatment plants have been damaged.

- Communications: 151,000 homes still without power. While the majority will have the issue addressed within four days and all will be told today how long repairs will take, some homes may be without power until the end of the week.

A further 155,000 homes are without previously in place broadband.

- Health: a small number of elective and outpatient appointments will be cancelled or postponed again today, with affected patients to be contacted directly. While most hospitals have returned to normal, there will be a knock-on affect from Monday’s postponed appointments.

- Education: schools will reopen today after two days of closures, with the same steps expected for colleges, universities and creche facilities.

- Transport: Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann and Bus Eireann are due to return to normal services, with the Luas green and red lines also expected to return today after being closed due to depot damage yesterday. Local authorities are continuing to review the level of damage to roads, although the lack of flooding means this is not believed to be as significant as expected.

- Agriculture: Minister Michael Creed said the “immediate priority remains safety” and that farmers should not remove fallen trees and debris without specialist expertise.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner

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