The government is being strongly advised to apply as soon as possible to the EU Solidarity Fund in order to access aid for the nationwide clean-up following Superstorm Christine.
Early estimates indicate the damages caused by a week of flooding and storm-force winds could be as high as €300 million, but so far only €45 million has been made available from the national emergency fund.
Irish MEPs have warned that unless the government lodges its EU application soon, it could miss a valuable funding window.
“The clock is ticking; any application for funding has to be received by the Commission within 10 weeks of the date of first damage caused by the disaster,” said Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins. Mr Higgins added that he has been assured by EU officials that funding will be forthcoming for Ireland, if the application is submitted on time.
Another Midlands-North-West MEP, Pat the Cope Gallagher, said the government should get estimated costs for the reconstruction work from all local and regional authorities as soon as possible before submitting a proposal. The Fianna Fáil MEP pointed out that Ireland’s previous application to the EU Solidarity Fund following the flooding in November 2009 was successful, yielding €13 million in funding.
Meanwhile, MEP Sean Kelly has requested an urgent meeting with EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn to leverage help for Ireland under the EU Solidarity Fund. Mr Kelly is a member of the European Parliament’s Regional Development Committee, which oversees the fund.
“Extensive damage has been done to Cork and Galway cities, as well as the infrastructure of smaller communities such as Tramore in County Waterford, Lahinch in County Clare, Foynes in County Limerick and Rossbeigh and Ballybunion in County Kerry,” he said.
The EU Solidarity Fund was set up in 2002 to respond to natural disasters and severe weather within Europe, and has been used for 56 disasters since then.