Dáil debates

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

2:45 pm

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

Under the Arterial Drainage Acts, 1945 and 1995, streams are maintained to a standard by the Office of Public Works. This includes all 11,500 km of channel, 700 km of various embankments and associated scheme bridges, sluices, weirs, pumping stations and so on. Deputy Fitzmaurice is well aware that the suitably equipped hydraulic equipment does not gouge out new channels but removes, where maintenance is carried out, silted-up areas and sediment that becomes lodged due to currents in rivers.

It is obvious that farming is a business. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and his Department recognise that fact, which is why particular flexibility has been shown in respect of the agrisector in this regard. Deputy Fitzmaurice knows that farmers are the first to come to each other's rescue. All over the country, where farmers get into trouble, their neighbours and community come to assist in terms of fodder, moving of animals and other issues such as flooded houses.

The Deputy knows from his previous existence the difficulties that can arise when one gets tangled with a Department or State authority. I am not saying that to the Deputy's detriment as he is entitled to his opinion. However, when one multiplies it by a plethora of statutory authorities, the important point is that the Office of Public Works, instead of glad-handling everyone, as described by Deputy Fitzmaurice, has identified 300 areas, 66 of which are on the Shannon. It will identify who is responsible and who should carry out the works required. This might be more effective than hoping to find a single entity, which would take years in court hearings and legal challenges from one statutory authority to another, some of which have been around since before the State was founded. The situation is not as simple as is suggested. The problem is that rivers rise when rainfall increases and the Shannon is a slow river-riser in that sense. People are now in dread of bad weather over the next week or so and I hope it does not happen, but there is a serious ongoing programme in place.

Deputy Fitzmaurice will also appreciate that when flood defences have to go into Athlone, Galway, Ennis, Fermoy or elsewhere, they have to be done right. There is no point in putting up something that is haphazard or ill-thought out. The hydrological surveys will also have to have been carried out.

I accept that many older people have great experience of drainage patterns and that experience should be called into account when the Office of Public Works or anyone else looks at land or tributaries that should be drained. Older people and farmers will say that for 50 years an area did or did not flood. In so many cases, commercial developers said they knew how to drain an area but that is not how it turned out. All that experience should, in our common interest, be used and applied.

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