€100m of flooding damage 'not costly enough' to qualify for funds from EU
Ireland won't be counting on EU funding to help clean up after recent flooding, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has said.
He also called on the European Commission to relax the conditions for drawing down EU disaster aid, as December's storms are not costly enough to qualify.
There is no official estimate of the damages yet - that is still "weeks away" - but reports coming in from local authorities and businesses put the bill at around €100m.
That means Ireland will not qualify for help from the EU's solidarity fund for natural disasters, which requires damages to be in excess of 0.6pc of GNI - or €983m in Ireland's case.
However, the fund has a regional disasters clause where thresholds are lower, which Mr Kelly said he was "looking into".
"We will be exploring every avenue in relation to, is there isolated funds that we can access," Mr Kelly said after a meeting with his EU counterpart in Brussels yesterday.
"We've a team working on making applications but I will have to say that it's not something that we're relying on."
He added: "I do believe that there is a necessity for greater flexibility in relation to how you can apply for those funds."
The last time Ireland benefited from EU solidarity aid was following the November 2009 floods, which wreaked €244m worth of damages, according to Insurance Ireland.
Mr Kelly was meeting with EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella to discuss flood management in Ireland.
They agreed to set up a joint working group to share weather forecast data and implement plans to alleviate future flooding.
They also discussed how EU environmental laws affect flood planning, following allegations by some TDs that EU rules on natural habitats prevented dredging and the building of other flood defences.
"The directives in place have great flexibility but also have helped, and if they weren't in place we could have seen greater issues," Mr Kelly said following the meeting.
"I would challenge that discourse that emanates from some quarters in Ireland that these directives are the reason why we don't perform certain works. That simply is not the case."