Authorities criticised as weather causes chaos

Businesses and farming communities hit out at a lack of funding and infrastructure

Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 07:14

Colin Gleeson

State agencies last night came in for heavy criticism from communities around the country after widespread flooding caused chaos and brought many regions to a standstill.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was briefed on the flooding during a trade-mission to the US, said he hoped local authorities were able to manage the situation effectively.

“There has been extensive and heavy rainfall, and obviously this is a matter that has to be managed properly.

“Every local authority has its plan for exceptional weather events. I hope not too many people have been discommoded or have had to be moved out, and it is a case of the local authority managing this effectively and as quickly as they can.”

Co Cork was one of the worst affected regions in the country and Cork Chamber of Commerce chief executive Conor Healy said businesses were “very much losing patience” with authorities.

“Businesses in Cork have been badly impacted by flooding and it's happening now on a fairly regular basis. Blackpool has been hit for the second time in nine months and the system has been unable to take the water flow.

“The result is that businesses are four feet underwater within a very short period of time. People and businesses are very much losing patience in terms of solutions being provided to help mitigate what's been happening over the past few years.

“This is where the authorities need to step in and recognise that there is a serious problem. There doesn't seem to be any urgency, particularly within the OPW to address this situation.

"”Businesses are paying substantial commercial rates every year to ensure that services are delivered by the local authority. They are very frustrated and wondering why is this continuing to happen and why are they paying substantial rates for services they are not getting."

The M11 motorway in South Dublin was closed between junctions five and six from early morning until evening, causing "tremendous chaos" according to the AA's Conor Faughnan. The M50 southbound was also closed for a time at Junction 16 in Cherrywood.

The M11 closure "was the most disruptive thing that happened", he said. "It caused tremendous chaos in the morning commute and there were knock-on effects of enormous traffic delays right around the south side of Dublin.

"At one stage today we had reports of three hour commutes to get from Ballybrack to Bray, which is pretty horrendous."

The Irish Cancer Society said the weather had had a "devastating" impact on their annual Daffodil Day fundraising initiative.

Restaurant Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the flooding had been "a disaster" for his industry.

"Hopefully the local authorities will get the situation under control as quickly as possible - that's why we pay our local authority rates.

"Businesses are being penalised by excessive local authority rates across the country and we'd like to see a return on our investment as quickly as possible on that and for local authorities to get the roads open."

A spokesman for the Irish Farmers Association said the flooding had had "a major effect" on his members and their livelihoods.

"We need to see more investment from local authorities - these roads have been neglected for too long and we need to see some investment."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the chaos on the roads was not within its remit as "the National Roads Authority (NRA), the gardai and local authorities have operational responsibility for addressing disruption on the roads network".

NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said there had been "a significant weather event" and that the closure of a section of the M11 was "particularly" problematic. "We had sweepers and pumps out there and from 10am this morning - but basically they were just holding back the tide - the water kept coming down from higher ground."

He said "of course" there was infrastructure in place to deal with this type of weather. "This was a specific section of the road that was hit because of the way the water drainage was going. A motorway with that volume of water is going to be impacted in specific locations where the water funnels into."