Calls for EU flood relief funding as many dairy farmers still without electricity

The ICMSA is calling on the Government to apply for additional flood relief funding from the EU following last week’s Storm Darwin.

The president of ICMSA, John Comer, said his organisation welcomed the comments from government ministers confirming that additional flood relief funding will be made available but in light of the astonishing levels of damage inflicted by this week’s Darwin storm, he is urging the Government to re-visit its decision not to apply to the EU’s Solidarity Fund for assistance.

In a statement today Comer said he will be pressing for what he termed the “utter destruction” of farmland and farm facilities in the worst affected areas to be included in any compensation package.

Comer said while ICMSA has enormous sympathy for the people in our towns and cities who have been flooded out of house and home and while they were in no way quibbling about precedence, his association was bound to point out that rural areas – and particularly farming communities on the western seaboard – have been damaged to no less an extent with much of the utter destruction suffered there going relatively unnoticed.

He said ICMSA has members whose houses have not alone been wrecked but also their source of incomes, their farms, have been severely impacted upon with buildings and fields effectively put beyond any use.

His organisation is calling on the Government to acknowledge the less high profile but no less disastrous damage done to rural farming communities and to include that damage in any national or EU compensation package.

Comer observed that both Germany and Austria had successfully applied to the Solidarity Fund as recently as 2005 for damage to infrastructure and the removal of rubble and trees caused by serious flooding.

He noted the damage inflicted was actually below the threshold required to trigger consideration for EU Solidarity Funds but that both countries applications were treated under “exceptional criteria for extraordinary regional disasters” and were successful.

Comer wondered why Ireland’s application could not be similarly considered and wondered whether it was not time to stop approaching the EU with “our cap in our hands” and instead ask for, and expect to be given, assistance on the same basis as other member states as recently as 2005.

“Whether of the urban-commercial or rural-farming variety, flood damage has an enormous financial and psychological impact and the Government must try and ensure that genuine cases – wherever they are located – are helped and reassured,” the ICMSA president added.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the ICMSA said many dairy farmers in the south are still without electricity. “They are renting or borrowing generators to get by,” he said.

“Farmers in Limerick and Kerry have been very much affected. Just last night electricity power was restored in Adare in Limerick. Many dairy farmers who are milking 80 to 90 cows have generators, but it is the smaller farmers, milking 60 or so cows that may not have a generator. The storm damage has caused huge anxiety and loss of income to many farmers. When the damage is assessed in total we believe the Government should apply to the EU Solidarity Fund.”

In addition ESB Networks has confirmed more than 19,000 of its customers still remain without power this afternoon.

It said the restoration will continue well into the week, with more than 5,000 faults still to address. The areas with the most customers remaining without power are the surrounding areas of Tralee, Dunmanway, Killarney, Fermoy, Newcastlewest, Tipperary and Enniscorthy, it added.

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