€12m flood relief fund unveiled

Tue, Nov 24, 2009, 00:00

The Government is to provide €10 million for emergency relief for flood victims and an additional €2 million for farmers, it was announced this afternoon.

However, the Opposition said the funding was not enough to cope with the scale of the damage caused by the floods.

There was disruption in the Dáil today as Opposition TDs pushed for the normal order of business to be put aside in favour of an emergency debate on the issue.

Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said this “humanitarian assistance scheme”, agreed at a Cabinet meeting this morning, would help those worst affected by the flooding that has devastated many areas over past days.

Decisions on how to disperse the funds will be co-ordinated between the Department of Social Welfare, local authorities, gardai and other community leaders, Ms Hanafin said.

"I am conscious that for some families it could be months before the damage to their homes is fully repaired," she said.

"This humanitarian aid scheme will be there for them in the months ahead long after the present flood waters have receded."

The Minister said the fund for farmers would be an initial allocation. She said the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith was aware farmers needed extra help, particularly those whose fodder had been destroyed.

She also said the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan would approach the European Union to enquire about the possibility of further financial support. “We’re checking out there to see is there money that’s available to us from Europe,” she told RTÉ radio.

The Office of Public Works has spent €100 million in the last five years on flood relief, including an estimated capital expenditure of €38 million this year.

The HSE South today announced details of its Community Welfare Services for victims of flooding in Cork city and county.

The HSE said those who have experienced hardship due to the recent floods should attend a HSE South Community Welfare Clinic in their area, which will run for this week and may be extended if demand requires it.

The service can make Exceptional Needs Payments (ENP) to those on social welfare or HSE payments. Those who are not normally entitled to Social Welfare Assistance may be able to avail of an Urgent Needs Payment (UNP) to assist with immediate needs such as food, clothing, fuel, or household goods for those who have suffered flood damage.

"We are particularly encouraging people who may have lost everything in the floods and those who don't have household insurance to attend one of our community welfare clinics for assessment, said Gabrielle O'Keeffe, general manager for South Lee community services with the HSE South.

Further information on the clinics is available from the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850.

Leader of teh Labour Party Eamon Gilmore said the humanitarian assistance would not meet the needs of thousands forced out of their homes and left without drinking water.

“Twelve million, it seems to me, won’t go very far with scale of the devastation that we’ve seen over the last number of days,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan called for a national flood alert system.

“It may not always be possible to stop the waters but people need to know what
is coming in order to prevent as much damage as possible,” Mr Hogan said.

The Irish Farmers Association, meanwhile, demanded the Government pay out on farm grants after thousands of acres of land along the Shannon, Suck, Lee and Suir was inundated.

President Pádraig Walshe claimed individual farmers up and down the country have been warning of inadequate drainage and maintenance on rivers.

“The general disruption that has occurred because of the heavy rainfall can be avoided if we get back to the practice of clearing rivers and streams on a regular basis,” Mr Walshe said. “Spending millions of euro on flood defences will only protect the town where they are built, and will push the problem downstream to other towns and rural areas.”

Fine Gael today criticised the Government for introducing a “bland” flood relief motion before the Dáil that does not address any of the problems caused by the flooding. Environment spokesman Phil Hogan said the plan proposed by his party, which was rejected by the Government, would have provided a “badly needed” national  flood alert system.

“The widespread devastation caused by the recent flooding has called into question Ireland’s preparedness to deal with such major instances and highlighted the immediate need for an action plan so this never happens again,” Mr Hogan said.

Flood alerts remain in many areas of the country today following overnight rain. Further rainfall is forecast for the next few days. Met Éireann said it will be very stormy and windy tonight, with gusts of 120 to 130 km/h in parts of the west and north. There will also be heavy squally and possibly thundery showers.

Army personnel were deployed to the Shannon Banks estate in Corbally outside Limerick city last night where 20 homes were evacuated because of rising flood waters in the River Shannon.

Councils in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary and local emergency services have all warned areas from Parteen to Limerick city to expect further floods overnight due to increasing levels of water in the Shannon system.

Levels on Lough Derg were the highest ever with Athlone also suffering as the entire Shannon system swelled.

Cork City Council said this afternoon it is operating 34 water points in the north east and north west of city. The locations are published on www.corkcity.ie

The Clare Crisis Management Centre this evening issued a severe flood risk warning to all parts of  the county, The warnings were issued following further heavy rainfall across the county today.

A family was rescued from their home in Carron, north Clare, earlier today due to rising flood levels while many roads were closed across the county