Minister for Housing happy with response to Storm Emma

Government defends its reaction and sets out challenges still to come

 O’Connell Bridge, Dublin during Storm Emma. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

O’Connell Bridge, Dublin during Storm Emma. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times


Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will tell Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that the State’s response to Storm Emma was proportionate and had run smoothly.

Mr Murphy will bring a memorandum to the weekly Government meeting on Tuesday morning outlining how the State apparatus responded to the extreme weather of the past week and setting out the main challenges now facing the country. The two most pressing problems are a potential water shortage in Dublin, and a temporary spike in the numbers waiting admission to the country’s hospitals.

As the thaw set in on Monday and normal life resumed in most counties, the Government defended the manner and scope of its response and rejected a suggestion there had been an over-reaction.

Mr Murphy’s spokesman said the sheer level of snow in some parts of the country was unprecedented and fully justified all the precautions that had been put in place, including closures of schools, public buildings and suspension of public transport services.

He pointed to the UK which experienced the same adverse weather but had not prepared as had the Irish authorities. It is estimated that as many as 10 people had died in Britain as a result of the extreme weather. Many hundreds of people were stranded on motorways and on trains overnight during the height of the storm, and there was also a 40-car pile-up on one British motorway.

“Our effort here was different even though there was similar weather. We did not over-react,” he said.

Mixed reaction

Reaction from local politicians to the response was mixed. Kildare, North Fianna Fáil TD, James Lawless, expressed frustration that the serious situation facing the region, including four-metre snow drifts in Kilkeel, was not being recognised at a national level.

“People are running out of medical supplies, food, fuel and feel abandoned by the lack of national effort being directed at our county. Numerous roads remain impassable and the rural parts in particular are deeply affected.

“The council is doing its absolute best in assisting people but its efforts are now relying on the support of quarry operators and farmers with machinery.”

Edward Timmons, a Fine Gael councillor based in Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, said it might take another one or two days to reach all cut-off homes and clear all roads in west Wicklow. He said that more army personnel and equipment had been deployed and praised the work done by the council. He said that 40 per cent of the road network in the county was in the west, with many uplands roads and long cul-de-sac roads.

Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy called on the Government to ensure that all necessary resources were allocated to deal with the impending flooding, which is expected as the snow continues to thaw.