Speech by Mr. Damien English, T.D.,
Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY PLEASE
8th November 2017
I am delighted to be here today with my colleagues, Mr. Simon Harris, Minister for Health, Mr. Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Mr. Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Paul Kehoe, Minister of State at the Department of Defence, and Mr. Kevin “Boxer” Moran, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief and to be associated with the Be Winter Ready campaign, now in its sixth year.
I am delighted to see how the campaign has developed and grown over the years. The campaign aims to provide advice to individuals, communities, and businesses to enable them to prepare for the coming winter.
The value of this preparedness and the importance of providing accurate information and advice to the public was demonstrated as recently as three weeks ago when Storm Ophelia impacted the country. This weather event was unprecedented in its potential impact and severity and precipitated the issuing of a RED LEVEL weather warning for the entire country, the first time this had ever been done.
Tragically 3 people lost their lives during the storm. However, I have no doubt that this number would have been considerably higher without the timely and accurate information and advice provided by the public authorities that enabled people to take action to protect themselves and their property. The preparedness and resilience of individual citizens also had a great part to play in this and in how quickly communities recover from severe weather emergencies.
During and following the storm communities and individuals worked together with the Principal Response Agencies, demonstrating remarkable resilience and resourcefulness to further bolster the response effort. Initiatives and campaigns such as Be Winter Ready contribute enormously to this preparedness and the quality and accuracy of the advice it contains enables this combined effort and helps build trust in the public authorities.
Speaking of preparedness, it is also important that we are ‘Winter-Ready’ with regard to homeless rough sleepers.
Preparations are currently underway across all the major urban local authorities to ensure that additional safe and secure accommodation is available for rough sleepers during any periods of cold winter weather.
Approximately 200 new emergency accommodation spaces will be in place before Christmas. These are additional bed spaces available for single homeless persons which will remain in the system for as long as they are required.
My Department is assigned the Lead Government Department role for the response to severe weather events and takes on the task of convening and leading the National Emergency Coordination Group, which brings together the entire panoply of Government, when severe weather events, such as flooding, occur.
My Department convened a National Emergency Co-ordination Group for Severe Weather in anticipation of the arrival of Storm Ophelia. The Group continued to meet during the storm and in the days following to bring a “whole of Government” response to bear in dealing with this crisis.
My Department is now undertaking a wide-ranging review of the response to Storm Ophelia so that lessons can be identified to further refine and improve how we respond to other emergencies that will occur in the future. The review will engage key stakeholders and representatives of all organisations involved in the response at both national and local level will be invited to participate in a number of debriefing sessions that my Department plans on holding over the coming weeks.
We have just concluded a meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning which dealt with winter-preparedness and where a comprehensive briefing was provided from across the range of Government Departments and Agencies.
My colleagues and I are jointly launching this campaign to emphasise the ‘whole of Government’ approach that is in place.
The main message is simple; be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help if you need it.