Government will have to rely on own resources to deal with storm costs

Any EU solidarity funds will be very small fraction of what is required

Pedestrians battle the wind and rain on Patrick’s Bridge in Cork during Wednesday’s storm. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Pedestrians battle the wind and rain on Patrick’s Bridge in Cork during Wednesday’s storm. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 01:00

The political response to the prolonged bout of severe weather which has included eight storms since Christmas has had local, national and EU dimensions.

The initial responsibility for responding to flooding or other weather-related incidents is taken by local authorities. When they are overwhelmed, or when the damage extends across a wide area, the response takes on a national dimension.

At Government level the response has also focused on providing emergency funding to deal with remediation and repair from storm damage and flooding.

Up until this week the Government had announced €25 million in emergency and humanitarian funding to families who found themselves in hardship or without a home after the recent flooding. Some €1 million of this was channelled through the St Vincent de Paul charity and the Red Cross.

In light of reports it received from councils on damage from earlier storms, between December 2013 and January 6th this year, it announced this week that it would be making €70 million available for a programme of repair and remediation.

Some €16 million of this is for roads damaged by floods; a further €20 million to restore coastal protection infrastructure damaged by recent weather; €26 million to repair piers, harbours and tourism infrastructure such as promenades; and €8 million to repair other OPW and transport infrastructure.

There is a further channel of funding available from the EU. Yet the Government has conceded that the damage so far does not meet the threshold for receiving assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund.

Its threshold, the Government said, was “very high” and it also noted that the EU budget in this area had been reduced from €1 billion to just over €500 million.

“The commission has signalled that this will mean grants for successful applications being cut from 2.5 per cent to about 1.33per cent. Essentially, for every €100 million of damage the best we could hope for is €1.33 million assistance under this fund,” said the Department of the Environment in a statement.

It is clear the Government will have to rely on its own resources as it is unlikely to get any solidarity funds from the EU. Even if it does, it will only be a very small fraction of what is required.