Adams criticises Gov/FF opposition to Extreme Weather Bill

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has condemned the decision by the government and Fianna Fáil to oppose Sinn Féin’s Extreme Weather Bill.

Teachta Adams said:

“The Extreme Weather Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2018 is about prioritising the safety of citizens during extreme weather events and alerts. The impetus for this legislation was the tragic deaths of three citizens last year during Storm Ophelia. Firstly, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to ensure that employees are safe during severe weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.

Secondly, it amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for the protection of public safety and the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning.

Storm Emma and Ophelia exposed the weakness in existing legislation and the confusion that exists over the responsibilities of employers and the rights of workers in the private sector.

The Sinn Féin Bill is about addressing these issues. The need for this was most obvious in advance of Storm Emma when the Government urged people not to travel unless absolutely necessary and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar specifically asked everyone to stay at home for a 24 hour period during the red status alert.

The decision by the Government and Fianna Fáil to oppose this Bill will continue to put at risk the lives of citizens faced with the choice of working during extreme weather alerts as demanded by their employer and losing wages.

Storm Ophelia was responsible for three deaths; Fintan Goss, Clare O’Neill and Michael Pyke. The government and Fianna Fáil should support our Bill and strengthen the legislative mechanisms available to protect citizens and avoid preventable future deaths.”

Speaking in the Dáil Gerry Adams said:

The impetus for this legislation was the tragic deaths of three citizens last year during Storm Ophelia.

The family of Fintan Goss from Ravensdale, in my own constituency of Louth, contacted local TDs following his death and appealed to us to ensure that employees are protected during instances of extreme weather.

I wish to commend the Goss family who, in the midst of their grief, sought to ensure that other families are protected in the future.

The Met Éireann website states that: “The core rationale for issuing Weather Warnings is to protect the lives and livelihoods of all of the nation’s citizens”. 

Sinn Féin agrees. So, the purpose of this Bill is twofold.

Firstly, it will amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to make sure that employees are safe during severe weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.

Secondly, it amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for the protection of public safety and the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning.

The responsibility of government is to prepare for such events and to ensure that they create minimum disruption while protecting lives.

In advance of Storm Emma there was widespread media coverage of the impending bad weather and we were all left in no doubt about the seriousness of the extreme weather which was expected.

In the case of public sector workers, it was very straightforward. Non-emergency service staff stayed at home. Many hospital and front line staff demonstrated commendable commitment and courage as did carers and personal assistants.

But some people with disabilities were left isolated for days.

This is an issue we need to return to.

In the private sector however there was great uncertainty among staff as to what they should do.

Some people took a day’s holiday and stayed at home. Some worked from home. And some people, in the absence of clear guidelines from their employers, went to work. The objective of this Bill is to provide clarity and protection for workers and citizens.

No employee should be asked to or expected to jeopardise their safety to go to work when there is a clear risk to their health and safety. As legislators, we have a responsibility to act to remove this ambiguity.

The second part of the Bill deals with protecting the public and members of the emergency services. Driving through breaking high waves on a seaside promenade, swimming in seas that are clearly dangerous or going for a drive into a countryside blanketed in snow, in roads that are unsafe, or engaging in some other similar activity obviously puts that person’s life at risk.

It also creates a dangerous situation for front line emergency staff or neighbours or good Samaritans who try to help. This behaviour is irresponsible.

This Bill will introduce a criminal offence with a penalty of a Class D fine (up to €1,000) and/or up to six month’s imprisonment for anyone who engages in such reckless behaviour.

I have written to all party leaders and all Louth TDs asking for support for this Bill.”

Cllr David Saurin – Look in your neighbours

Sinn Féin Councillor David Saurin is calling on everyone to check in on their elderly and disabled neighbours in light of the predicted severe weather that is due to hit the east of the country this week.

Cllr Saurin said “I am asking people to ensure that their elderly neighbours are prepared for the worst in terms of weather and to ensure that they have sufficient fuel and food supplies to see them through what could be several days of severe cold weather. Elderly and disabled people in both rural and urban areas may find themselves housebound if the worst of the weather predictions are accurate.”

“During the water outage last summer we saw a great sense of community spirit in the area as neighbours rallied to look after the more vulnerable in their communities and I’m sure that sense of concern for those who may find themselves housebound over the next few days will be repeated.”