Thursday 19 October 2017

New agency to handle response to disasters

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. Picture: Tom Burke
Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. Picture: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A new powerhouse to deal with terror threats, floods and other emergency situations is to be considered by the Government.

A review of the response to the recent storms in Donegal has exposed "gaps" in existing structure for crisis management.

Minister of State Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has now compiled detailed plans for a dedicated Emergency Agency that will have legal authority to control disaster responses.

The proposals, which have been discussed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, involve significant changes to the existing Office of Emergency Planning, which was set up after 9/11.

Ireland is the only member state of the EU that does not have a legislative or statutory basis for its emergency management structure and response.

Currently responses are based on a case-by-case basis and involve a variety of Government departments and State agencies.

When a crisis situation develops, a National Emergency Co-Ordination Group is created in order to oversee a 'whole-of-government' response.

Similar procedures are followed for around 50 different categories of emergency, including a terrorist incident, civil disorder, flooding, an industrial accident and a big freeze.

Mr Moran's proposal warns that without a legislative basis there is no requirement or incentive to join the elements that already exist for emergency management into an effective and efficient structure.

He suggests the existing OEP be transformed into an inter-departmental legal entity with a clear mandate and appropriate authority.

This was what was envisaged when the office was created in the wake of the Twin Towers attack in 2001.

Irish Independent

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