Belfast Telegraph

Storm Ophelia: Northern Ireland emergency action plans 'out of date,' says former top cop

Mass evacuation plan not updated since 2004

Northern Ireland's emergency plans, such as those needed for events in reaction to Storm Ophelia, are out of date, a former senior police officer has said.

Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said that the plan for a mass evacuation for people had not been updated in 13 years while other arrangements had not been updated since 2010.

"Some of this predates the change in local government, the rise and usefulness of social media use in terms of getting messages out. It is just all out of date.

"But it is symptomatic of how our government works," he told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

Mr McQuillan said Northern Ireland was not ready for a major incident which could pose risk to life.

"There are layers of bureaucracy and systems in the middle that don't work in times of an emergency," he said.

On Sunday senior civil servants held a phone conference on the response to the increased warning level from the Met Office. It was not until two hours after the warning  kicked in on Monday at noon that the Civil Contingencies Group - which coordinates the response - met

We don't have government... therefore it doesn't work as it should.

Alan McQuillan said plans should be in place and regularly tested to ensure they are up to date for when they are needed.

"We have focused entirely in last number of years on our politics not working... but our structures don't work, our government doesn't work.

"We divided government up at one point, not on the basis of rational or a principled approach but because we wanted a number of ministers to suit our political situation.

"Those ministers operated as robber barons effectively in their own department. We then reformed that to a smaller slimmer Executive but nothing has caught up with that and there is still no sign of better coordination across the whole of government."

Sinn Fein, which has been involved in talks aimed at restoring the Executive since it brought down the institutions, said lessons needed to be learned from the storm.

Michelle O'Neill thanked those involved in tackling the destruction of the storm and its clear-up.

“It’s important that lessons are learned including early decisions in regards to school closures plus an all-Ireland approach to emergency planning as weather doesn’t recognise borders," she said.

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