Kenny chairs emergency group meeting on flooding crisis

Alan Kelly seeks additional €10m to help local authorities in clean-up operation

A channel has been dug as an emergency measure between Cahermore and Dunguaire, Kinvara to relieve flooding. Video: Joe O'Shaughnessy

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is chairing a meeting of the National Emergency Co-ordination Committee in Dublin this afternoon during which the State’s response to the latest flooding crisis is to be discussed.

The meeting takes place ahead of the Cabinet meeting where long-term strategies to protect 300 areas across the State which are in danger of flooding are expected to be drawn up.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly will seek an extra €10 million on top of the €8 million already earmarked for local authorities to help them to deal with the aftermath of recent flooding. He will propose the amount be reviewed every week or fortnight as the cost of the damage becomes clearer.

The Department of Transport is to undertake a major assessment of road damage. Ministers believe road repairs in several counties may cost €40 million or more, making this the most expensive heading in the final clean-up bill.

Among proposals under consideration is a grant system to allow homeowners to install their own flood protection measures, such as walls or “flood gates”.

Ministers also believe there may be a case for helping a small number of people in exceptional cases to relocate to new homes if the threat of serious flooding in the future cannot be alleviated.

Local authorities have been asked to submit preliminary estimates of the cost of damage to the Department of the Environment in advance of today’s Cabinet meeting. However, a complete picture will not be available until floodwaters have receded.

Mr Kelly, along with Simon Harris, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, are expected to seek Cabinet approval for the establishment of a flood forecasting system. This would require hiring additional staff for Met Éireann and the OPW.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Kelly, Mr Harris and other Ministers will meet representatives of the OPW, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Inland Fisheries, Waterways Ireland and local authorities before the Cabinet meeting.

The meeting is expected to concentrate on long-term strategies to protect 300 areas across the State – 66 of which are on the Shannon – which have been identified by the OPW as vulnerable to flooding.

More rain fell in December than would normally fall during a whole winter, breaking records at many weather stations across the country, Met Éireann said.

However, it is holding out prospects for an improvement. Meteorologist Gerald Fleming said the country was now starting to experience more normal weather patterns. The outlook is for continuing unsettled weather, but without rainfall on the the scale of recent weeks.

Flooding continues in many river catchments across the country with multiple road closures and considerable disruption to transport. Iarnród Éireann said bus transfers were in operation between Limerick, Ennis and Galway; Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon; and Gorey/Rosslare Europort.

Record water levels are continuing to be experienced in the mid-Shannon catchment area.