Cabinet stuck in antediluvian antics as floods wash over country

Perhaps things are about to get better for the waterlogged people of Cork city. Phil Hogan could be paying them a visit.

Phil Hogan: “No, lads. I’m interested in actual Flood defences – the things that stop the water from coming in. Not funny defence lines from the Flood 
T
tribunal. Cork is like the lost city of Atlantis today.”
/ The Irish Times

Phil Hogan: “No, lads. I’m interested in actual Flood defences – the things that stop the water from coming in. Not funny defence lines from the Flood T tribunal. Cork is like the lost city of Atlantis today.” / The Irish Times

Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 01:01

These are deeply confusing times for senior members of the Coalition. Take Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. We’ve had sight of the transcript.
Big Phil: Lads, lads. This is very important. Flood defences. I’m looking for the best ones. Young Brian Hayes has me persecuted with questions. Any ideas?
Enda: I’ll get the ball rollin’ so. What about: “I won de money on de horses!”

(Laughter.)
Pat Rabbitte: “Here’s one: ‘I was not present on the night because I did not eat the dinner.’”

(More laughter.)
Ruairí Quinn (putting on a Dublin accent): “All is I’m sayin’ is – de buildin’ was slidin’ into da Tolka.”
Big Phil (putting on a posh accent): “Mah public and mah private life were seamless.”
Joan Burton: “Wait now, wait now. I have one: ‘It was a political donation for private use.’”
Eamon Gilmore: “This is a classic, if I say so myself, and I do: ‘I only discussed football with Denis O’Brien when we met in Hartigan’s Pub after the All-Ireland.’”

There is a pained silence. Big Phil glowers.

Enda takes command. “For God’s sake, Eamon, how many times do I have to tell you. We do not talk about the Moriarty tribunal. We are talking about the Flood/Mahon tribunal here. Now you’ve gone and upset Big Phil.”

The Minister for the Environment sighs heavily.

“No, lads. I’m interested in actual Flood defences – the things that stop the water from coming in. Not funny defence lines from the Flood tribunal. Cork is like the lost city of Atlantis today.”

Oh.

You can’t blame them for getting confused, though.

As for the aforementioned Brian Hayes, Minister of State with Responsibility for Inundations, he looked absolutely wrecked yesterday.

He had a face like a burst sandbag.

The man has been inspecting floodwaters for a week now. He went to Limerick the other day to condole with Michael Noonan, and was savaged.

He’s going to bed in his Wellington boots now and has the children sleeping in canoes.

Brian sat silently behind the Taoiseach as another raft of questions on the floods sailed his way.

“It is not easy to deal with such a challenge of nature but we are doing the best we can,” said Enda. The Cabinet is to hear an update on the situation today.

That sinking feeling
Poor Brian sank deeper into his seat – that seat in Europe looking an ever more alluring prospect.

The Fianna Fáil leader demanded to know how the Government was going to deal with the major flooding problems plaguing coastal cities and towns in the south and southeast. In particular, Micheál’s beloved Cork is suffering hugely again.

Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordán thought he knew why the situation had become so dire. “Fianna Fáil councillors rezoned those areas.”

Micheál wasn’t having that. “Cork was founded on a marsh by St Finbar and not by Fianna Fáil. Let’s get that right.”

You learn something every day. Cork is not an easy place to plug.

Enda explained: “There is an engineering challenge in the defence of Cork city, its inhabitants and businesses that is very complex, given that there are two rivers, an extent of flood water, the dam and Lough Mahon heading out to the open sea.”

But perhaps things are about to get better for the waterlogged people of Cork city.

Phil Hogan could be paying them a visit.

The Taoiseach said he had been speaking to his Minister for the Environment earlier in the day and Big Phil is “to visit a number of locations this week to see for himself”.

How wonderful will that be for the people? Imagine their joy, as they lean on their sweeping brushes and look up from the stinky puddles in their front rooms to see Phil Hogan looking down, radiating concern from every fibre of his snug top coat.

If they are lucky, they might get a return visit from Brian Hayes. First the river Lee overflows and now their cups runneth over . . .

Of course, Enda is on top of things thanks to his vast network of women who tell him things.

“One woman told me the other day that the damage estimated will be of the order of €250,000 to the business that she operates, because of flood damage.”

Meanwhile, Gerry Adams was the first politician to mention “King Canute” in the course of his contribution. It was only a matter of time.

Gerry has the solution to Cork’s problems: building a tidal weir across the Lee similar to the one across the river Lagan in Belfast will do the trick. There are ways of doing these things.

What is the Government going to do to deal with the threat posed to communities by changing climate patterns?

“If you were in charge of this, with what you’ve just said, we’d be in an even deeper mess,” replied the Taoiseach.

Sure “not even the postman in Donegal could have predicted that the tide would be 20 feet higher than normal at the mouth of the Corrib”.

Sinn Féin is praying conditions will change by the weekend, because they have their ard fheis in Wexford and it would be lovely if the weather held up for the photographs.

It’s not looking good, unfortunately.

It looks like they’ll be blown out of it. So to speak.