Rural dwellers 'disadvantaged' on flooding

Rural dwellers are 'disadvantaged' in the allocation of resources to prevent flooding, an oireachtas committee heard today.

Rural dwellers are 'disadvantaged' in the allocation of resources to prevent flooding, an oireachtas committee heard today.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 00:00

Rural dwellers are at a disadvantage when money for flood protection measures is allocated, an Oireachtas committee was told this afternoon.

James Doyle, chairman of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association, said Government allocated capital spending for remedial works only went to urban areas, while those living in "individual" homes were expected to fend for themselves.

Mr Doyle told the Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht there needed to be a new way of making “big decisions” which affect rural people. He said all too often decisions on what remedial works were allowed, were taken by the EU. Such decisions were often academic in nature and devoid of local knowledge, he said. A new forum would have to be found which involves rural people in the decision making process, he said.

Mr Doyle also said a study needed to be done to quantify the scale of the problem of individual properties affected by flooding, and the consequent problem of finding insurance. “ A study is the first thing that needs to be done to quantify the problem and see who is to pick up the tab” he said. In many cases that he knew insurance companies "blacked an entire townland" because of flooding in one part of it. This had led to examples of hillsides being declared flood plains, he said.

The committee also heard criticism of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which Sinn Féin TD Brian Staney described as “the Taliban”. He said the restrictions imposed by the service on what riparian works could be carried out had led to flooding of rivers and the drowning of the corncrake. A similar situation could happen humans who dwell in riverside locations he predicted.

Independent TD Jackie Healy Rae told the committee he believed a ban on gravel extraction from rivers was at least part of the problem.

However independent TD Catherine Murphy said climate change should not be ruled out of the problem. She said during the boom years housing had been built on flood plains and with hindsight there were “things we should not do again”.