I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 52 and 103 together.
The primary role of the local authorities in response to flooding is to ensure public safety and all initial efforts are, therefore, directed to saving life and preventing injuries. Where possible, the local authorities also assist in the protection of property.
My Department's primary concern is to ensure that, when adverse conditions arise, the local authorities are geared to respond promptly and effectively to help offset the worst effects of these conditions. My Department issues a circular annually reminding local authorities of the need to revise and update, as necessary, their contingency plans for dealing with the consequences of severe weather conditions. This includes arrangements to take necessary action arising from early warnings from Met Éireann, the necessity to be proactive as regards public relations and information, and availability of equipment and stocks.
Arising from the work of the interdepartmental committee on major emergencies, IDC, following the November 2000 flooding my Department issued a questionnaire to the main local authorities, city and county councils in February 2003 seeking information in relation to plans and arrangements that they had in place to deal with severe weather emergencies. From the replies received at that time, it is clear that all local authorities have plans in place for dealing with flooding and have worked to put relevant recommendations of the IDC into effect. This means that emergency response personnel have equipment and stocks, for example, pumps, sandbags, etc. available to assist local communities in flooding situations and that the local authorities have arrangements in place for issuing accurate and timely information to the public, public representatives and the local media. From information received in relation to the recent flooding incidents, it is clear that these plans were fully deployed in the affected areas.
My Department has no direct role in relation to flood damage and compensation for householders or others who suffer losses as a result of flooding. The Office of Public Works has primary responsibility for devising and implementing such flood relief measures.
Neither are there any funds available to the Department specifically to meet expenditure incurred by local authorities due to flooding. However, funding provided to local authorities in respect of non-national roads takes account of the need to address such incidents. Also, local authorities can, where necessary, provide emergency short-term accommodation for persons made homeless as a result of disasters such as flooding. My Department recoups 90% of the cost of providing such accommodation.