I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this very important topic. With all due respect to the rules of the House, I do not believe two minutes is adequate to properly deal with the devastation and disaster visited on the city of Limerick over the weekend, or with the destitution, misery, hopelessness and despair which followed in its wake. My constituents in Kings Island in Limerick city awoke on Saturday morning to their own particular version of Dante's Inferno and but for the dedication and professionalism of the emergency services, whom I thank and congratulate, there is no doubt lives would have been lost.
In the very short time available to me I wish to ask the Minister of State practical questions and I would appreciate direct answers because I am asking them on behalf of my constituents who are asking me the same questions. What will be the position on people whose houses have been destroyed and rendered uninhabitable? These houses fall into two categories, namely, those owned and rented by the local authority and those privately owned. Will the local authority effect repairs to these houses? Is it possible to repair them? Does the local authority intend to rehouse people, and if so when will something happen in this regard? Is it possible to have a timetable for this? The Minister of State will be aware from his visit to Limerick yesterday, which I welcome, that many of these people have been put into facilities for the homeless and others have gone to live with relatives. This situation cannot continue indefinitely. What is the position with regard to those who own their houses, particularly those who do not have insurance because they are specifically excluded from having flood insurance?
The Minister of State is aware the way of life of many people has been grievously disrupted by the events of the weekend. Some people have lost boilers and have no way of heating their houses and others have lost fridges or freezers and have no way of keeping food. Some have lost their cars. With regard to emergency provision for these people, how many social welfare officers have been allocated? What is the total amount of specific funding that has been allocated to deal with these issues? What is the timescale between application and payment? What is the Government's intention on general compensation? The Minister of State is aware that when 20 houses were flooded 15 years ago we received general compensation of £500,000.