Eoghan Murphy defends Government response to Storm Ali
Minister says some may not have appreciated seriousness of orange weather warning
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has defended the response to Storm Ali, which led to the deaths of two people as it swept across Ireland on Wednesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.
The Minister responsible for preparation for severe weather events has defended the Government response to Storm Ali in the face of harsh criticism from the Opposition, saying “we should not let the politicians second-guess the experts”.
Forecasts for the storm were completely accurate and an orange weather warning was issued by Met Éireann, which did not necessitate the closing down of parts of the State, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said.
“Met Éireann do an excellent job in predicting the weather. It’s never going to be foolproof. It is never going to be perfect,” he said. “You cannot predict by the hour how certain weather is going to hit us but you can give a very good indication of the type of weather and a storm orange is a very severe storm.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had earlier claimed that decisions could have been taken such as to close the National Ploughing Championship on Wednesday as a result of the storm.
“It is not that you have to close down parts of the country as we did with Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma. (At the same time) it is a tragedy that a woman lost her life in Galway and there was a death in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Murphy and Mr Martin were speaking at the National Ploughing Championship in Screggan, Co Offaly, which resumed after being called off on Wednesday due to the dangers posed by high winds.
Mr Martin told reporters: “Safety is always paramount and one has to take early and resolute decisions in the interests of safety and that did not happen.”
He said lessons had to be learned by Government on its response to the storm.
Mr Murphy accepted that some people might not have fully appreciated the import of a orange weather warning.
“It’s a new system. Before that we had wind speeds and people did not understand that at all,” he said. “We try to educate the public more as to what we are talking.”
He said that every storm was different and the difference between red warnings for events like snow, wind and rain each required different responses.
“We are not saying that people should stay away from work but we are saying it is serious and people have to be cognisant,” he said.
Mr Murphy said a yellow weather warning remained in place for wind and rain and that Storm Callum was also expected this weekend.
ESB network crews have restored power to over 160,000 customers following Storm Ali, but a number of outages remain across the country.
The outages have affected homes, farms and businesses across Ireland. The majority are in Cavan and Monaghan areas, while the rest are in parts of Longford and Galway.
At the height of the storm on Wednesday, 186,000 customers were impacted.
Violent storm force 11 winds caused major disruption in coastal regions with gusts of 143km/h recorded at Mace Head in Co Galway, while, in Co Mayo, gusts of 124km/h were recorded at Newport, and 120km/h in Claremorris.
Dublin Airport confirmed that over 80 flights had been cancelled on Wednesday by multiple airlines, causing “frustration and inconvenience to many thousands of passengers”.
Met Eireann said this weekend’s weather is looking disturbed with the jet stream lying over Ireland, and details are uncertain at this stage.
“There is the potential for storm development close to and over Ireland. There is a strong signal that more settled conditions will prevail for early next week as the jet stream moves away northwards,” the forecaster said.
It said most places will be dry on Friday night with variable cloud and clear spells.