Dáil debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Topical Issue Debate

Flood Prevention Measures

6:45 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will do my best. There were a lot of questions and, obviously, Members had a lot longer to ask them than I have to answer them.

On immediate works, let me be clear that there is an ongoing scheme called the minor flood mitigation scheme, for which any local authority can apply to the Office of Public Works. It has clear criteria. All the local authority engineers are well aware of it and it is published on the OPW website. They can apply for up to €0.5 million for what we describe as minor flood works but could end up making a very big difference. We are continuing to pay out that to local authorities to carry out works. I encourage all Members to familiarise themselves with that scheme. There are criteria attached to it, but they should have a look at the scheme. I am happy to have further engagement with any Deputy, including Deputy Stanley, if he wants to come back to me on his issue in Laois.

The issue of delays is a fair point. We have acknowledged that it takes time to get the schemes right, and we have to get the right schemes. We have seen in other countries with bad weather in recent times what happens when the schemes are not necessarily right. Having said that, we need to get them done as quickly as possible. We have shown that we will look at elements on a stand-alone basis where it makes sense.

Blackpool was supposed to be part of the River Lee scheme, and I gave a commitment that if Blackpool was ready to proceed before the River Lee, we would go ahead with it. I was in Blackpool approximately two weeks ago, moving it on. I also intend to ask the Office of Government Procurement, OGP, for which I have responsibility, to ensure that we are optimising every opportunity we have under EU procurement directives so there is no delay. I will ask OGP to prepare a report for me on it and to engage at a European level to ensure there are no delays.

The confirmation process which Deputy Harrington raised is relatively new and he is right. We are starting to run the tendering at the same time as the confirmation process in order to prevent any undue delays. I want to see more of it. There is a budget of approximately €6 million for the Dunkellin scheme which Deputy Cannon raised, and we will deliver the scheme by direct labour. While we are in the hands of An Bord Pleanála, I hope, if there is a positive result, we can proceed as quickly as possible. I am very sorry Templemore was flooded. Deputy Coonan has contacted me about the scheme, which we are pursing and will progress in 2016. I will return to the Deputy with more details.

I agree with Deputy Creighton about flood insurance. We do not have it right yet. I was asked to chair an interdepartmental group on flood insurance. When the country floods, everybody says it is the job of the OPW but it is not. It is the job of many State agencies and local authorities. The Department of Finance is reviewing its policy on flood insurance and is due to report as part of the interdepartmental group in the spring. I am not satisfied that, if the State is potentially going to spent €1 billion of taxpayers' money over the next ten years delivering CFRAM, we could still have a scenario in which homes and businesses cannot get flood insurance. We are examining what other countries are doing. I am more than happy to meet with the residents and I have already visited the Dodder. I stand over the professionalism of the OPW staff, who do a very good job. I will seek a detailed note on the status of the scheme and, if the Deputy wants to follow it up, I will be happy to meet the residents. I tend to meet with as many delegations as I can.

Deputy Tom Fleming raised the situation of the people of Rossbeigh. I met them, and it is an extraordinarily difficult situation. We have made very clear what the OPW can do, and other agencies and Departments may need to participate, for example, the OPW does not maintain roads. I am waiting to hear from Kerry County Council on it and I am very happy to engage regarding it. Deputies Breen and Joe Carey asked about Ennis, which has been the focus of a number of flood relief schemes during recent years with the completion of both the contractors to carry out the scheme. This can lead to delays on occasion. The River Fergus Ennis upper and River Fergus Ennis lower flood relief schemes have been completed. Further works at Aughanteeroe and Fíor Uisce are ongoing and Clare County Council is progressing a scheme for Ennis south, which is expected to commence next year. A scheme for Clonakilty is at design stage, with the expectation that confirmation and tender processes will take place in the second half of 2016. I was pleased to launch the scheme in Clonakilty earlier this year.

There is a lot happening and I am willing to keep engaging with Deputies on it. While the OPW has very clear responsibilities, so, too, do the local authorities. They are doing the job very well. We all need to work together. The minor flood works scheme is there for some of the immediate issues that may be worth pursuing for local authorities.


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