Fianna Fáil MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the government to establish an emergency response plan for tackling gorse fires similar to those which have destroyed lands in Donegal and other parts of the country.
The Donegal based MEP commented, “It is time to accept that dealing with wild fires is a reality for our emergency services. We must learn from the terrible experience in Donegal over the past number of days and ensure that we are well prepared to deal quickly and effectively with these outbreaks in the future.
“The Fire Service and members of the Defence Forces, both troops and helicopter pilots, have all gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring the fires in Donegal under control. I have also been struck by the spontaneous response from local people, particularly the youth, farmers and businesses who got involved, donating their time and equipment to speed up the emergency effort. Great credit is also due to the gardaí and Civil Defence for their role in the operation.
“While all of this must be commended, I believe an emergency plan, similar to that in place for road accidents and flooding, must be put in place to ensure a quick and effective response to these types of events into the future. It is the best way to minimise the response time and maximise the coordination between those involved in the emergency operation. There is no doubt that this could dramatically reduce the damage caused by these fires.
“I have written to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to request a full assessment of the damage caused by gorse fires over the past number of days. Dozens of landowners, farmers and business will suffer major financial losses as a result of the disaster. These people must be provided with financial support from the State to allow them to repair the damage to their land and property and allow them to get back on their feet.
“I have also contacted the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to ask that he provide a special allocation to Donegal County Council, to help them with the exceptional costs arising from these fires. The Minister should immediately convene a meeting of all the agencies to put an emergency response plan in place. Given that private and voluntary sector played an important role in this operation, they should also be represented.”