Wednesday, 18 November 2020
I welcome the Minister of State. It is great to see him in the House. I am very happy to hear about the interdepartmental groups he is setting up. He has spoken very clearly about CFRAM studies and the funding in place to protect people, property and businesses. If I may speak again about the area I am from, the west of Ireland, we have two of the biggest rivers in the country, the Shannon and the Suck, the latter being the largest tributary of the River Shannon. The River Suck is the county boundary - as with many counties, the rivers are the natural boundaries - between Roscommon and Galway. Senator Murphy will be very well aware of this. We have been impacted by serious flooding in the area. In Ballinasloe we have seen this challenge. The town is one of the nominated priority areas under the CFRAM programme for a flood relief project because over €8 million worth of damage was done to St. Michael's Square, with houses flooded in the middle of the town in 2009 and again in 2015. We got approval in 2019 under this project. It is not moving quickly, however. We have had consultation and it is now moving into the next stage, but the process is slow. A huge issue I have is with planning in flood plain areas. There is a lot of planning. What is the impact on underground waterways and aquifers? There are a significant number of those in the west in particular. I would not know so much about other areas, but the west is a limestone area with a significant number of underground waterways. There is a huge impact on construction and flooding in other areas farther on down from the towns.
I agree that we need to ask multiple authorities to make decisions. The Minister of State mentioned the necessity of this when permits are being sought across Departments. I ask him to imagine what it is like on the ground when one is dealing with two local authorities. If one wants to do work, one needs to make sure that Galway County Council, Roscommon County Council and the OPW or Waterways Ireland are all involved and have approved everything. These are huge blocks, stops and delays to funds that we need to see delivered now. One thing that really surprised me is that the local authorities also have responsibility for the waterways within urban areas. For example, in the likes of the middle of Ballinasloe no clearage or drainage has been carried out for ages. Again, they are pointing to a lack of funding, and this comes under the county council, so a huge array of bodies are involved.
Those are some of the issues, but the question I would like to ask the Minister of State concerns the resources in the OPW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Are there any increased allocations to deal with the passage of permits between Departments? I might follow this up with the Minister of State separately.