Storm damage does not meet ‘threshold’ for EU disaster fund

Kinvara, Co Galway suffered again yesterday with businesses swamped

The Government has ruled out applying to the EU’s emergency disaster fund, saying the impact of the recent storms does not reach a threshold required to access the special scheme.

However, a government minister claimed works amounting to €2bn in 300 flooding hotspots will be needed in the coming years.

Several TDs appealed for a special case to be made for Ireland in Europe and for an application to be tweaked according to regional needs across the country.

During a Dáil debate, Environment Minister Phil Hogan outlined some of the damage caused by storms in recent weeks. Flood damage estimates amounting to €70m would be met, he explained. Mr Hogan said local authorities would be required to submit timetables on the repair works. Separately, negotiations will continue with the insurance industry on how more homes can be covered in areas prone to storms or flooding.

He then explained why Ireland would not apply for money from an EU fund.

“As regards possible EU Solidarity Funds, 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 €1bn to €534m per annum.”

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said his home county of Clare was still unclear how much funds it would get. He queried why Ireland could not ask for EU funds on a regional basis, as recently suggested in Brussels.

Damage estimates for Clare amount to €35m of the €70m, he said, and Mr Hogan would end up “trying to do fishes and loaves” to meet the needs of all counties affected by the storms.

The €70m is made up of €16m for roads, €20m for coastal protection, €26m for local authority infrastructure and piers or harbours, and €8m for other transport and infrastructure.

This is separate from a €25m fund for humanitarian aid, €1m of which will go to the St Vincent de Paul and Irish Red Cross.

Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Coveney said there had been damage to over 100 piers, harbours and slipways. There had also been considerable loss or destruction of lobster and shrimp pots.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin argued that there was a lack of urgency on behalf of the Coalition dealing with the storm damage. Flood prevention spending of €250m over the next three years was “pitiful”, he said

Junior finance minister Brian Hayes accused Mr Martin of “point scoring” and of engaging in “gutter politics”.

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