Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, has proposed that a dedicated Emergency Agency be established with the legal clout to control the response to a range of disaster scenarios, from flooding to terror threats.
Minister Moran said a review of the recent flooding in Donegal convinced him that such an agency is necessary to plugs gaps in the existing structure.
The proposals involve significant changes to the existing Office of Emergency Planning (OEP ), which was set up after 9/11.
Currently, responses to emergencies in Ireland are handled on a case-by-case basis involving a complex web of government departments and state agencies.
In an emergency, a National Emergency Co-Ordination Group (NECG ) is created to co-ordination of a “whole of Government” response to the situation.
Some 50 types of emergency have been identified, and for each a Lead Government Department (LGD ) has been identified along with departments and agencies that will provide support. When an emergency presents itself, responsibility for emergency management of identified risks is allocated to “the most appropriate” Government department.
Implementing the decisions made by the LGD which may impact on another department can be complex if not unworkable, Minister Moran says, as in organising a response care must be taken not to intrude into matters which are appropriate to decision-making by another Minister.
Minister Moran wants to streamline this structure and process, by transforming the OEP into an inter-departmental legal entity with a clear mandate and appropriate authority to direct all aspects of an emergency response.
Minister Moran says that without a legislative basis there is no requirement or incentive to join the elements that already exist for emergency management into a single and effective structure.
The various emergency services are the primary responders when disaster strikes. However, secondary responders such as power and telecommunication companies and other utilities such as water and gas perform a vital role in response which the primary responders cannot provide. By putting a single inter-departmental Emergency Agency on a legislative footing, Minister Moran says a more efficient response can be made in the event of an emergency.
The plans are to be considered by the Government.