Europe agrees €200 million for Irish flood protection

Minister of State Simon Harris to press EU on emergency fund

The European Investment Bank provides loans to EU countries to invest in infrastructural projects, providing long-term financing at low interest rates.

The European Investment Bank provides loans to EU countries to invest in infrastructural projects, providing long-term financing at low interest rates.

 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed a €200 million investment for Ireland to help tackle flood prevention measures.

The funding, which will be channelled through the Office of Public Works , will be used to tackle flood prevention and protection infrastructure across the country across the next five years.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday morning, EIB vice president Jonathan Taylor said the investment was the bank’s first support for flood protection in Ireland.

“We have done lending for flood prevention and flood protection in other European countries, but this is the first time we will invest in flood-related infrastructure projects,” he said, adding that up to 30 projects are expected to be funded under the investment.

The bank provides loans to EU countries to invest in infrastructural projects, providing long-term financing at low interest rates.

Last year, it provided €755 million of new loans for new projects in Ireland, including the expansion of Dublin Port and the extension of the M11 from Gorey to Enniscorthy.

The €200 million loan for flooding-related infrastructure projects will be matched by around €240 million in exchequer funding. Mr Taylor said that while it fell to the Office of Public Works to identity projects, all projects must adhere to EU law, including the Habitats and Water Framework Directives.

Meanwhile, Minister of State Simon Harris is expected to press the EU to amend the thresholds that apply to funding from the EU Solidarity Fund, the EU’s main emergency fund.

Mr Harris, who is in Brussels on Thursday for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers, said he planned to raise the issue informally with ministers.

“I’m conscious that for member states to access the fund the damage threshold for member states is 0.6 per cent of gross national income. That would roughly mean that about €1 billion in damages would have to be incurred in Ireland’s case.”

Mr Harris said thresholds for regional funding were equally high, particularly for small countries.

“Perhaps these thresholds need to be looked at,” he said.

The EU Solidarity Fund is an emergency fund established after floods in central Europe in 2002. While Ireland secured €19 million from the fund in 2009, the size of the fund was reduced in the EU’s 2014-2020 budget cycle.

This week Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella requesting a meeting to discuss the flooding crisis.

Cross-party

A cross-party group of TDs and MEPs attended a meeting with senior commission officials from the EU’s environment division in Brussels on Wednesday.

The meeting, organised by Independent MEP Luke Ming Flanagan, was also attended by Marian Harkin and Mairead McGuinness. All are MEPs for the Midlands North West constituency. TDs Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice and Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen were also at the two-hour meeting.

A joint statement released by the office of Mr Flanagan said the meeting had been “constructive, frank and informative and clearly indicated the flexibility allowed under EU regulations to take actions”.

Ms McGuinness said after the meeting that Irish authorities must use the flexibility inherent in EU rules to adequately address flooding risks. “It is clear we have the flexibility we need to implement action to address the issue but that an holistic approach and not just local plans drawn up in isolation of the knock-on impacts downstream is needed to ensure that the action taken delivers the required result.”

Ms Harkin said the meeting had dispelled the “myth” that Brussels was to blame for exacerbating the flooding.