Government urged to seek emergency cash from EU crisis fund

The Government is set to release millions of euro in emergency funding to local authorities coping with the aftermath of Storm Ophelia amid calls for the Coalition to seek financial help from the EU’s crisis solidarity fund.

Government urged to seek emergency cash from EU crisis fund

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated the move will be discussed today as it separately emerged that a Government report has warned that the future cost of dealing with extreme weather events could run into billions of euro a year.

Speaking on RTE News last night after attending a series of national emergency co-ordination group meetings and after speaking with British prime minister Theresa May about the storm response, Mr Varadkar said that while Ophelia is still “raging” in some areas, attention will today turn to the clean-up operation.

He said local authority officials, the Defence Forces, and ESB will this morning begin “assessing the damage”, while further help from Northern Irish, English, and Scottish authorities will be sought from tomorrow.

Asked if additional emergency funds will be available, the Taoiseach said “the full resources of the State will be made available”, with cabinet sources saying the total could reach into the millions of euro.

Mr Varadkar joined Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Transport Minister Shane Ross, and others in offering his and the Government’s condolences to three people who died yesterday, saying: “I would implore everyone to put safety first.”

Mr Varadkar’s comments came as Fine Gael colleague and Seanad EU Affairs spokesman Neale Richmond said Ireland should access the EU solidarity fund for extreme weather events in response to Ophelia.

It also emerged last night that the Government’s Draft National Adaptation Framework report warned that extreme weather could cost Ireland billions of euro every year unless action is taken.

An early version of the report, due to be finalised by December, was published by the Department of Climate Action last month and predicted a six-fold increase in road repair, flooding, infrastructure,and societal costs by 2050.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar earlier rejected claims that the Government was caught off-guard by Storm Ophelia due to the fact that a series of service shutdowns and severe weather warnings were only issued on Sunday night.

He also said companies may have to pay workers who could not go to work yesterday, though this view is understood to be disputed.

In a separate interview, junior minister for defence Paul Kehoe said it was “ludicrous” that some people ignored severe weather warnings to swim in the sea or take pictures on piers.

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