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Saturday 17 March 2018

Uncertainty clouds the outlook for taskforce

Jason O'Brien

WE'LL be relying on grit and determination to get through this one.

Happily, grit is one thing the Government Taskforce on Emergency Planning isn't short of, with shiploads of the stuff coming in after the snow and ice had finally melted.

Ideas, unfortunately, weren't quite as prominent yesterday. "It's up to the volcano," weather forecaster Evelyn Cusack shrugged, as she addressed the media gathered in the taskforce's "situation room" on Dublin's Kildare Street.

And the volcano isn't returning the taskforce's calls. All of which makes the 'planning' aspect of its brief rather difficult. It's all a little up in the air, so to speak.

Nonetheless, the taskforce -- which was criticised in the past for its slow engagement -- met up for the second time yesterday morning to discuss a plume of ash, and how to get a handle on it.

It was an impressive role call, with representatives from the departments of transport, health, defence, foreign affairs and tourism meeting with officials from the aviation authority, Met Eireann, environmental protection agency, gardai, coast guard and the geological survey of Ireland all present.

What exactly was discussed wasn't released, but the main line on the press release was that the plume had "shifted eastwards slightly".

They will reconvene this morning at 11am.

The Taoiseach and members of government are being kept fully informed by the Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, we were informed with some formality.

Mr Dempsey was at pains to point out on RTE radio later that there were no health dangers and officials were not anticipating any dangers.

"It's (the country) not going to be covered in this stuff," he said, after Sean O'Rourke asked what provisions were in place for possible water pollution.

But what if ash does fall and the cows in the field eat it, Mr O'Rourke persisted.

"As the need arises the information will be made available in advance," the minister replied.

"But this is in advance," Mr O'Rourke pointed out.

Well, quite. As it happens, the taskforce may have an ace up its sleeve in such a scenario: Scotland.

"The forecast charts are indicating that there will be some rain in Scotland in the next 24 hours so that would be a good indicator of actually what's in it," Ms Cusack said.

"The rain isn't going to hit Ireland first." Let's keep an eye on the Scots today, then.

Dependent on the outcome over there, it might be worthwhile investing in a good umbrella.

Or maybe you could dust off some of those iodine tablets.

Irish Independent

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