Wednesday, 18 November 2020
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I look forward to his ongoing work in the Department. He is a straight talker who says things as they are. He usually gets things done.
The subject of flooding is difficult. Water, wind and fire are the three enemies of every homeowner. Wind and fire must be mitigated by the homeowner but, unfortunately, with water it is very difficult to put defences in place. If these are the three enemies of a homeowner, the delays in the State responding with flood defences is a fourth enemy.
The area I know best in County Clare that has suffered most from flooding is Springfield, Clonlara, in the south east of the county. It experienced two devastating events in 2009 and 2015 and I know every one of the homeowners there personally through working with them on their behalf. We speak glibly about devastation but these people have seen enormous devastation, scarring them to a point where I do not believe some of them will ever get beyond it. There are people with children who have their own difficulties and they have been hemmed in for up to six weeks. They have had to decamp from their homes for a protracted period so that children can attend school and medical appointments. It really is devastating, which the Minister of State will know from his experience.
As a Government and at a time we are investing significant amounts in rebuilding and re-energising the economy, we must use our time and this money well to put in place critical infrastructure. It has taken a long time for the scheme at Springfield, Clonlara, to get the scheme where it is. An embankment has been designed and we understand it is the ultimate solution. It has come through the planning process with An Bord Pleanála effectively clearing the way in the past week.
I do not want another three, four or more years to go by with these people living in greater fear when, in essence, the flag is now up. Red tape, much of it necessary, has been gone through and we have reached a point where planning is in place. The process has still been too long and I hope that in his time in the Department, the Minister of State will try to see what blockages may be alleviated and what can be moved aside.What things can be moved aside and how we shorten a process? We all know that over time when there is a shortage of money, certain Departments use natural constraints in an effort to effectively slow projects down when they do not have the money. Money is now available for key investment in infrastructure. We need to get people back to work. Getting these large-scale infrastructural projects done and dusted is a good use in terms of priming the economy. I appeal to the Minister of State to look at Springfield Clonlara. It is shovel and paperwork-ready and my God, the people there are ready to see some resolution. I have spoken to some of them in the past couple of days as heavy rains have fallen over recent weeks and as the water level in the Shannon has risen very significantly. They are on tenterhooks again. They face the pandemic on the one hand where they are working from home and are now wondering whether they will be locked in their homes and flooded for the Christmas period. Anything the Minister of State can do to advance this particular case would be appreciated. I know there are many others nationally. I have every expectation that the Minister of State will fight for his share of the budget to ensure these projects are resolved as quickly as possible.