Dáil debates

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

2:25 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

With all the people Deputy Adams met in Carrick-on-Shannon, it looked to me as though he was canvassing but I understand that is not the case. In any event, it does not take from the stress and pressure on people in private houses or businesses when floodwaters come.

Last week the Government reactivated the €10 million humanitarian fund for private house owners. It is now available through the community welfare office system. The Government has also put together a €5 million compensation fund for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The requirements in terms of access to this funding are that the dates during which the premises were flooded and the rateable valuation of the property must be authenticated by a local authority engineer. An initial sum of €5,000 can be sought and paid before Christmas, with the opportunity, if the flooding is really bad, to claim a further €15,000 in compensation duly authenticated and validated by way of invoices and so on. That is the immediate response. I agree with Deputy Gerry Adams's remarks on the services and volunteers who have slaved day and night. I saw first-hand during a visit last Sunday to Foxford, Ballina and Crossmolina the full impact of the flood waters.

The Deputy's proposal regarding a single authority for the River Shannon has been around for many years. It is not possible to do it, given that statutory authority for the River Shannon rests with a number of bodies, including the ESB, the OPW, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and many fisheries, tourism, commercial and local authority interests. While the proposal may sound wonderful, in public discussion the co-ordination required has thus far proved to be exceptionally difficult. I agree with the Deputy that the Shannon is a slow moving river and that it drains 40% of the country. The implications for people living below the Parteen weir in terms of the efforts being made to minimise flood damage speak for themselves. The Government has set out a ten year strategy. There are 300 locations included in the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme, in respect of which flood defences need to be provided, 66 of which are located along the River Shannon. While there is no single authority with responsibility for it, it will be possible to identify under the CFRAM programme which authority bears responsibility and what should be done, bearing in mind that in some instances there will be an overlap of responsibility between authorities.

The arterial drainage programme of the 1950s and late 1960s is finished. There is no longer a need for arterial drainage. The system was put in place for agri-purposes, based on three to five year projections. Flood defences are supposed to last 100 years. I refer the Deputy to what happened in Carlisle where almost €40 million was spent on flood defences that did not work. It is important, therefore, that we get it right. I commend the practicality of the OPW, for instance, in Clonmel where it raised the barriers under the flood relief scheme, which has proved very successful. I sympathise with people on the damage done to their houses and businesses. The Government has, at least, responded quickly by providing some immediate relief. The the longer term plan, under which almost €500 mill be spent in the next six years on the putting in place of, I hope, flood defences that will address any future issue, is being drawn up by the OPW.

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