Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Japan is currently responding to the largest emergency in its post-war history as it tackles not only the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami which struck the country on 11 March, but also a nuclear crisis. We have all been deeply shocked and saddened by these events and I join the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in expressing our sympathies to the Japanese Government and people.
At magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, the earthquake was one of the biggest ever recorded, triggering a tsunami which washed away entire towns and villages. Thousands of people have been confirmed dead, with many thousands more missing. The Japanese Government is also dealing with the resulting crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In the hours following the earthquake and tsunami, the Government placed the Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps on standby to deploy to the region. The corps is made up of highly-skilled individuals with the type of knowledge and experience that is most required during a humanitarian emergency. In addition, we informed the Japanese authorities we would make available our emergency stockpiles in Subang, Malaysia. These comprise emergency shelters, blankets and water and sanitation equipment and provide a basic infrastructure to those who have lost their homes.
Although Japan is probably the best equipped country in the world to deal with this kind of disaster, its response capacity has been pushed to the limit. Consequently, it appealed last week to the EU and its member states for help. The Government responded by providing €1 million to the Japanese Red Cross for relief to people left injured or homeless by the disaster. Through Irish Aid and our embassy in Tokyo, the Government is in close contact with the Japanese authorities, the EU and the United Nations, which is helping to co-ordinate the international relief effort. We will continue these efforts in the days and weeks ahead.
Deputy Michael McGrath: I welcome the Minister of State’s response and the €1 million allocation for Red Cross operations in Japan. I also welcome the practical supplies provided through Irish Aid for the rescue and recovery mission. With regard to the efforts being co-ordinated at European level, have the relevant Ministers met to discuss a pan-European response to the crisis in Japan and examine any possible support that may be required? Is there any outstanding request from the Japanese that has not yet been attended to?
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: As the Deputy is aware, the response is primarily being co-ordinated by the United Nations. The rapid response corps is on standby and our supplies are available for provision through Malaysia. These efforts are being co-ordinated by the United Nations and supplies will be provided directly to the Japanese Red Cross. There have been ongoing discussions at EU level and particularly with the assistance of the embassy in Tokyo. As the Deputy is aware, the ambassador travelled to the north-east region of Japan. We are ready to provide whatever aid is requested, although there have been no further requests for aid either through the European Union or the United Nations.
Deputy Michael McGrath: With regard to the fallout from the nuclear plant at Fukushima, have the potential consequences of natural disasters for nuclear facilities in the European Union been considered? In our own case particular attention ought to be paid to facilities across the water in the United Kingdom.
Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The primary concern internationally has been been to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, although other issues may be addressed at a later stage in various fora. At the weekend the nuclear plant was relatively quiet as action continued to be taken to gain control. However, the position is still very serious and there are issues to be resolved in the region close to the plant in particular, from which there have been evacuations. I presume there will be further discussions on the broader issues raised by the Deputy.
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