Sinn Féin Accuse Govt Of Failing Ireland Following Floods

Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, has accused the Government of failing the country following widespread flooding across Ireland.

Speaking in the Dáil Mr Adams said that the utter devastation and distress of families and communities across large parts of the island of Ireland as a result of flooding have been shocking.

"The Irish government has failed to take account of the warnings, co-ordinate the relevant state agencies effectively and speedily; or adequately plan for a future in which these storms are regular features of our autumn and winter," Mr Adams said.

"Despite the widespread media coverage nothing really prepares you for the scenes of desolation or the trauma for the families – some of whom are now experiencing their eighth flood.

"Those families and business people I spoke to were mentally and physically exhausted with the daily battle against the floods. Many were frustrated by the government's poor response.

"Before Christmas, I visited Carrick-on-Shannon and spent some time with people whose homes and businesses were flooded.

"Last week, I met families in the Mounthamilton area of Dundalk.

"In one case, the teenage children of a family don't want to return home. The house is destroyed. This is the second time their home has been flooded in recent years. The last time they spent a huge amount of money on refurbishment.

"Two out of thirteen houses are flooded there. None of the residents had access to their homes because the roadway was submerged. There were issues with sewage and no refuse collections. Mounthamilton was badly flooded also in 2014. Their neighbour's home has now been flooded six times – in 1979, 1992, 2000, 2014, in December 2015 and again this month.

"In Clonlara, beside the Shannon in County Clare, Geraldine and Joe Quinlivan have to travel a mile by boat to get to their home. They are exasperated beyond belief.

"Joe, who has worked on the river all of his life explained the problem.

"He told me: ‘If you don't clean your chimney and if you have a coal or wood fire, then you are going to be in trouble. If you don't clean the river then you shouldn't be surprised if this leads to flooding. Excess water has to go somewhere. If the river has shallowed or narrowed because it hasn't been cleaned then adjoining lands will flood.'

"They are also critical of the refusal to listen to residents who have the local knowledge essential to help combat flooding.

"Their family have lived in their home in Springfield Clonlara for 150 years. Geraldine's father as born there in 1929. It was 65 years later before the first flood hit. Subsequently, there were floods in 2000, 2006, 2009, 2014 and again this year.

"The family live in dread from November to March each year, especially if it has been a wet summer and the water table is high.

"There are 60 other families in a similar situation and all live in fear of decisions taken by the ESB at the Parteen Weir.

"At O'Brien's Bridge, the Shannon is wider than locals ever remember.

"At St. Mary's Park in Limerick, the flood defences put in place after the disastrous flood two years ago amounted to two breeze blocks on top of a porous wall. Totally inadequate.

"Of course, climate change is a major factor in all of this. Thus far the Irish government's approach to climate change has been inadequate.

"The planning laws passed by successive governments in this state have contributed to this crisis. Developers have been allowed, even encouraged, to build on floodplains. Thus far this government has shown scant interest in taking the necessary measures to protect homes and towns or to tackle the insufficient planning regulations that have contributed to this crisis.

"A report at the weekend in the Sunday Business Post revealed that the Office of Public Works has identified 70,000 homes at risk of flooding.

"The government's response to this aspect of the crisis has been especially slow.

"Last year, the European Commission approved a British reinsurance scheme called "FloodRe", aimed at ensuring availability of domestic and SME insurance at affordable prices for flood-related damage.  

 "The Taoiseach should examine the memorandum of understanding agreed between the British Government and Association of British insurers.

"Under that agreement, a sum of money now exists which is funded entirely by the British property insurance industry through premiums passed on by the insurers, but capped, as well as a levy charged to all insurance companies active in the market.

"The government now needs to take the necessary steps to help families, farmers and businesses.

"That means:

The government and local authorities need to put in place measures to help sanitize homes and businesses contaminated by dirty water;

It needs to put in place an accessible compensation package to enable people restore their damaged properties;

And there is an urgent need for a long term holistic strategy that takes account of current difficulties but also plans for future issues, more storms, rising sea levels and the construction of new flood defences;

An all-island approach to tackling flood risk and management should be at the top of the agenda.

"Today, I moved Sinn Féin's River Shannon Management Agency Bill in the Dáil. It provides for a single agency with a strong legislative basis able to comprehensively plan the management of the Shannon River basin."


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