Written answers

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Department of Defence

Emergency Planning

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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60. To ask the Minister for Defence when the last meeting of the Government task force on emergency planning took place; the date of its next meeting; if he is continuing to chair these meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2751/16]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I continue to chair the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning. It comprises of those Ministers and senior officials that have a lead or support role in Government emergency planning.The Government Task Force co-ordinates and oversees the emergency management policy and activities of all Government Departments and public agencies. It is supported by the Office of Emergency Planning, Department of Defence.

The Government Task Force continues to meet on a regular basis, meeting on 5 occasions in 2015. I chaired the last meeting, which was held on 12 November 2015. At the last meeting, in addition to the normal agenda and attendance, other ministerial colleagues also attended to receive briefings on winter preparations by the relevant Departments/Agencies. The meeting was followed by a joint launch of the annual "Be Winter Ready2 Information Campaign. This provides practical advice on how best to prepare for the winter; ensures the public are aware of where advice and help can be found and aims to reassure the public that preparations are being made and arrangements have been put in place to ensure that there will be a co-ordinated response to severe weather events.

While details of matters discussed at meetings are confidential, I can confirm that the Government Task Force continues to examine current risks and supports the co-ordination arrangements for emergency planning across a "Whole of Government" approach. Meetings provide briefings on matters such as current security threats, cyber security and horizon scanning across the lead Departments, as well as regular briefings on topical matters.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department for flooding response in accordance with defined roles and responsibilities contained within Strategic Emergency Planning Guidelines. During the recent severe weather and flooding the Department chaired the National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG), which managed the national level response and provided media briefings. A wide range of senior officials and experts met almost daily, with 30 meetings held between 3 December 2015 and 13 January 2016. I was kept regularly briefed during this period.

The work of the NECG nationally and, particularly, the work of the Local Authorities, Civil Defence, the Defence Forces, and many other public, community and voluntary organisations locally, in managing and responding to such events is to be commended. While flood levels have not fully subsided, there is ongoing monitoring and assessment of the situation and Government and the relevant Departments/Agencies continue to be briefed and updated, as required.

A further meeting of the Government Task Force would, in the normal course of events have been held in December 2015. However, in view of the ongoing meetings taking place of the NECG, this was postponed and will now take place in February.

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