Dáil debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Topical Issue Debate

Flood Prevention Measures

6:15 pm

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

We must all have great understanding for those who were affected at the weekend. In these cases, the biggest problems are the human tragedies as businesses or homes are destroyed. We can all live with closed roads.

There was nothing anybody could have done about the amount of rain that fell in recent days, but there are things we can do to ensure a better response when flooding occurs and to reduce the likelihood of flooding in the first place by ensuring the countryside can handle more water.

In the short time available to me, I will focus on two or three issues. First, there has been a policy in recent years not to clean drains on farms or clear small rivers. The Office of Public Works, which used to do a lot of drainage work of this type, has considerably reduced its efforts in that area. Blocked swallow holes, for example, present a major challenge. We need a comprehensive examination of how we can get more water off as it falls. What is happening at the moment is that water is holding, even where there is only moderate rain. This means that when a big storm comes, large volumes of rainfall are coming in on top of an already sodden countryside. We must review farm drainage policies and small rivers policy. There may be a need to co-ordinate the work of local authorities and the OPW to ensure every river is covered. As I said, swallow holes are not letting water through because there is plastic or a mattress or something else stuck in them. There is a role, too, for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in determining how we balance the need to keep the country dry with the ecological requirements coming from Europe.

The leads me to a very important issue, which is that we must accept that it takes longer than it used to do to get any measure through planning. Therefore, we need to put more things into planning if we are to ensure progress. It is these planning delays which account for the underspends in Departments that have been a consistent feature in recent years. If we do not put enough on the conveyor belt at the beginning, we will not get enough off at the end. If we accept it will take five or six years for a project to go through planning, then we need to put more into planning to ensure there is something coming out the other end.

I conclude by noting that the information given out to the public on blocked and closed roads has been very haphazard. We need to have national protocols in respect of diversions and closed roads so that people know which routes are blocked and what the alternatives are. I had to go down two or three routes at the weekend before I found one that was passable.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.