Louth TDs hit out at "disappointing" response to Extreme Weather Bill

The proposed Bill was raised in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon

Barry Landy

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Barry Landy

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barry.landy@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Louth TDs hit out at "disappointing" response to Extreme Weather Bill

Gerry Adams, Leo Varadkar and Imelda Munster have had their say on the Extreme Weather Bill.

Sinn Fein TDs Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster have criticised what they call the Government's failure to prioritise an Extreme Weather Bill which would aim to protect employees and emergency services during severe weather events. 

Earlier this month, the new Bill, which is co-sponsored by David Cullinane TD, was introduced and is set to progress to Stage 2 of the legislative process. 

It aims to protect workers during Status Red Weather warnings, including those who work in the emergency services. 

It wants to see designated Status Red Weather Warning days - such as today - treated as public holidays, meaning both private and public sector employees can stay at home and be paid as if it were a working day.

Three people lost their lives across the country last October, as Storm Ophelia battered the country during a Status Red warning. Local man Fintan Goss died when a tree fell on his car as he returned home from work. The Ravensdale native left work early that day, due to the severe weather conditions. 

Mr Goss, 33, was the sole occupant of his vehicle when it was struck by a tree on the old Dundalk to Newry Road as he made the short journey to his residence in Ballymakellet. He was well known locally for representing St Patricks GFC. 

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Munster once again raised the issue of the Extreme Weather Bill with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. She asked him to prioritise the Bill in light of the weather conditions expected to hit Ireland over the coming days. 

“We are expected to experience a severe weather event this week. This weather event will make life very difficult for vulnerable members of society, and also for those who may feel obliged to travel to work in poor weather conditions," Munster said in a statement afterwards. 

“At the beginning of the month, my colleagues Gerry Adams TD and David Cullinane TD and I introduced the Extreme Weather Warning (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018 in order to provide certainty for workers, employers and the emergency services during an extreme weather event.

“The confusion during Storm Ophelia regarding what actions employers and workers in the private sector and self-employed persons should take during an extreme weather warning had tragic consequences," she continued.

“This Bill will provide for the safety of employees during certain severe weather warnings. It will enhance public safety and ensure the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning.

“The Bill would also impose penalties on those who would put lives in danger through reckless behaviour when an extreme weather warning has been called. It seeks to give an Garda Síochána enhanced powers to pursue such behaviour.

“This afternoon in the Dáil, I asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to prioritise this legislation and bring the bill to second stage this week. The Taoiseach declined to facilitate my request.

“As legislators, we must do everything we can to guide employers, protect workers, and strengthen the powers of emergency services in the case of severe weather warnings in order to prevent future tragedies. As we face into what is forecast to be a severe weather event, the Taoiseach’s lack of action on this matter is very disappointing.”

Deputy Adams echoed his parliamentary colleague's feelings on the matter citing Mr Goss' tragic death as a reason why the Bill should be pushed through. 

"During Storm Ophelia last October claimed three lives, including Fintan Goss from Ravensdale," he said. "As a result of those tragedies and a campaign for stronger legislation by the family, Sinn Féin TDs introduced our Bill.

"I am very disappointed that when my colleague Imelda Munster raised this issue today in the Dáil the Taoiseach refused to prioritise the draft legislation.”

In reponse to Munster's request in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said "I understand the Bill has been introduced but hasn't yet reached second stage. The best way to take it to second stage would be for Sinn Féin to use it's private members time and to prioritise it."

In November, Mr Goss' widow Pamela wrote to members of the Oireachtas seeking clarity on the rules regarding whether employees of privately owned companies are obliged to travel to work during a Status Red Weather Warning.